Guyana prioritising mental health with third annual conference

Underscoring its commitment to establishing a high-quality mental health programme, the government is determined to allocate sufficient funds to ensure continued improvement in this area.

This was emphasised by Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Advisor to the Minister of Health, during the official opening of the third Mental Health and Well-Being Conference held on Tuesday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal.

Advisor to the Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy

“Whether it’s mental health disorders, whether its neurological diseases, whether its substance abuse and the various social issues that we face, Guyana is willing to approach wellness, it’s the reason why in the ministry of health prevention programme, road safety is an issue, it’s the reason why domestic violence and sexual abuse are being addressed,” Dr. Ramsammy stated.

He noted that the budgetary allocation to tackle this issue has increased over the years and covers the collaborative work of several ministries.

Mental Health experts at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre

“Guyana’s approach since the 1990’s has been a holistic government approach to mental health … with our budget for example in the ministry of education, where we in  the early 2000’s started an adolescent health programme. For the first time there is a measurable amount of social workers in schools, we are not where we want to be, but for the first time we have that… we have various programmes in various ministries,” he noted.

The former health minister also pointed to the need for improved mental health ‘literacy,’ and suggested that the University of Guyana’s curriculum be updated accordingly.

Mental Health experts at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre

“Suicide kills people, mental health disorders kill people and that understanding we need to develop, not only among ordinary people, among us, policy makers, service providers, our doctors and nurses and unless we have a strong mental health literacy programme, we cannot talk about wellness,” he asserted.

Professor Emanuel Cummings of the University of Guyana noted that discussions have started with the Ministry of Education as a follow up to the last conference, to have social workers do internships at schools across the country.

He also profferred that social workers work with young children entering the school system.

Mental Health experts at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre

The three-day conference is expected to focus on areas such as suicide, injury, trauma prevention, among other issues.

Last year the government passed a Mental Health Bill and Suicide Prevention Bill in an effort to use modernised methods of tackling mental health issues locally.