Guyanese to benefit from better access to mental health services

The recently passed Mental Health Protection and Promotion Bill will make mental health services more accessible to persons in all regions of Guyana.

Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony says enshrined in the law, is a series of rights for mental health patients, including access to care.

“One of the things the ministry will be doing and have started to do is to ensure that mental health care is incorporated into our primary health care system, by doing that, more people in remote locations and so forth will now have access to mental health care,” Dr Anthony said, adding that treatment and care will be provided in “closer to home”, with institutionalisation a consideration only when ‘absolutely necessary.

Even in such cases, the Minister said there will be continuous assessments of patients to have them released once their conditions have improved. 

“So that they can go back home and get the kinds of treatment that social interaction with other people and so forth, that has been found to be more beneficial to those patients,” Dr. Anthony added. 

The Health Minister also noted that despite psychiatrists not visiting the interior locations persons in these areas will still access care.

“If the doctor or a health care worker feels that there is someone with a mental health illness and needs consultation, then through telemedicine, we will be able to offer a psychiatrist consultation using the telemedicine platform,” Dr. Anthony said. 

Dr Anthony said the most recent statistics show that 15-20 percent of the Guyanese population have some form of mental health illness, be it mild, severe, or acute. There are another 150 different conditions that can be classified as mental health illnesses.

With this in mind, there has been growth in the number of psychiatrists in the country, with provisions to train more doctors who wish to specialise in this field.

“A decade ago, we probably had about 2 psychiatrists in Guyana, now we have about 14 psychiatrists, so we have made some amount of progress and we have a post-grad programme where we can teach doctors who are interested in psychiatry, specialise them in that area,” the health minister said.

There will also increase public education activities on mental health, to avoid discrimination against those affected.

“There are different segments of the population that we need to do more work with, I think once we are able to do that, we will see a turnaround, we will see a change in people’s attitude, this is not new work, there were lots of stigma that was attached to HIV and we have been relentless in working with the public in some of these things and we have seen a change in attitude.”

The Mental Health Protection and Promotion Bill 2022 was passed in the National Assembly on August 8, 2022.