Govt, stakeholders collaborating to address mental health

Guyana is the first country in the world to implement a joint programme on Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing and Development of Children and Adolescents, which is aimed at accelerating efforts for child mental health in the country.

It is being implemented by the Ministry of Health through a collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) and UNICEF, which will also be implemented in other countries.

Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony

Officially launched on Friday at the Grand Coastal Hotel, East Coast Demerara, the venture will see a 10-year action plan being developed. Other aims include improved delivery of mental health services and information to children and adolescents, strengthening information systems, and implementing strategies for promotion and prevention in the area of mental health.

Importantly, it will seek to provide better access to quality mental health care for the targeted population through the training of medical personnel and key stakeholders countrywide.

Coordinator of Adolescent Health at the ministry, Cilandell Glen

Additionally, the implementing agencies will work with various government ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Education, Child Protection Agency, and the private sector to ensure improved mental health services for children.

Minister, Dr Frank Anthony who delivered the feature address, noted that the government has been doing a lot of work in the area of mental health, explaining that the model in which mental health services are offered is being revamped into a more modern way.

PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr Luis Codina

“These things are new but we are working to integrate them to make sure that the quality of care that we give especially for our mental health patients is much different from what we’re accustomed to … It’s gonna take some time for us to get used to it, but with stakeholders and everybody else in the room, we can get people to move in this direction much faster,” Dr Anthony noted.

Meanwhile, Coordinator of Adolescent Health at the ministry, Cilandell Glen explained that the initiative also seeks to improve data collection and monitoring for child mental health.

Deputy Representative of UNICEF Guyana and Suriname, Irfan Akhtar

“By 2025, we actually want to see the mental health and adolescent health unit of the Ministry of Health working together with these two organisations and other stakeholders to address or implement a National Mental policy, and the policy must also be cost or actioned,” she added.

Deputy Representative of UNICEF Guyana and Suriname, Irfan Akhtar said mental health should be discussed among families, and communities and not just in the clinics. PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr Luis Codina shared similar remarks.