Gov’t finalising new Mental Health Legislation, Suicide Prevention Bill

Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony said the government is finalising the new Mental Health Legislation and the Suicide Prevention Bill, which are intended to tackle mental health issues and suicide in Guyana.

 Dr. Anthony said the country’s current legislation date back to 1934, and while there have been attempts in the past to establish new bills, there has been little success.

“We’re in the process of finalising that law and hopefully we can get it through the various committees and make sure that we can get a new law that governs mental health,” he said during hisCOVID-19 update on Thursday.

“The things that are reflected there is the modern thinking relating to mental health issues and that is what we want to bring to Guyana to make sure that it permeates all the different structures that we have, it must be progressive, it must be modern and we must be able to address the real problems that patients would have.”

Government’s intention is to rid society of the stigmatisation attached to mental health and instead help persons to recognise it and offer compassion to persons with such issues.  

It would help persons create that enabling environment so that people would feel welcomed and be able to cope with their illnesses,” Dr Anthony said.

He noted that early diagnosis and treatment are important and persons should access the services.

“There is nothing wrong with going for counselling, there is nothing wrong with accessing treatment, absolutely nothing wrong with that,” Dr. Anthony said.

Apart from the bills, government has collaborated with the Columbia University which will assess the mental health issues in Guyana.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony said the ministry has collaborated with the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre to offer mental health services to children.

Children who have been diagnosed with autism or other spectrum disorders will be able to access adequate care.

Addressing suicide, Dr. Anthony said it remains an issue and sometimes the ‘telltale’ signs are missed.

“We need as a society, if we are going to lower the rates of suicide for example, if we are going to reduce the amount of depression that we have, we need to talk to people, and with patients, there are simple tools that can be used by just asking them a few questions you can actually get a sense about some of these illnesses,” he noted.

The minister said cases are being detected more in the regions, rather than centrally.  He said the government is working to get more persons to access the services in the respective regions.