Message from the Minister of Health on the launch of the Report of the High-Level Commission on Mental Health

Guyana joins other countries in congratulating Her Excellency Epsy Campbell Barr, Chair of the High-Level Commission on Mental Health and former Vice President of Costa Rica, and Ambassador Nestor Mendez, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States, along with the other members of the High-Level Commission on Mental Health.

The Commission has spent the past year analyzing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including innovative good-practice solutions. They have identified priority areas in mental health for the Americas and developed appropriate recommendations to guide policymakers in countries throughout the region.

Our nation is grateful for the Commission’s efforts since its establishment in May 2022. We are pleased to have participated in the interview process that led to developing the ten recommendations that serve as the foundation for the Commission’s final report.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the mental health of many people in Guyana, as it has in other countries. Even before the pandemic, Guyana had inadequate mental health structures, obstacles to accessing quality mental health services, and insufficient funding, contributing to poor overall health in the country. To tackle this issue, the Guyanese government has prioritized mental health and is working to address the growing mental health challenges faced by the population.

It is clear that there have been significant actions taken to prioritize mental health in the National Health Sector Plan. These actions include giving mental health a higher priority, adding it to the essential healthcare services package, allocating more funding to mental health services, strengthening the governance structure, reviewing and updating mental health laws in line with human rights, and developing a process for community-based mental health services for people of all ages.

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated many discussions around mental health; these have shed light on the seriousness of the crisis and the inadequacies of mental health services. In response, this Commission has provided a studied approach to tackle the problem with a strong commitment to taking prompt action.

The Guyana Government thanks the High-Level Commission for creating “A New Agenda for Mental Health in the Americas” (NAMAH). This package of policies and actions focuses on universal health coverage, human rights, equity, and non-discrimination. It also empowers individuals with mental health conditions and their families and promotes the advantages of multisectoral collaboration where different sectors and actors can share financial resources, knowledge, and skills.

Guyana fully supports all ten recommendations outlined in the report. It is committed to collaborating with other nations in the Americas to address mental health challenges and enhance the overall mental well-being of people in the region. Guyana remains dedicated to supporting the Commission’s efforts as countries work towards reducing non-communicable disease mortality rates by one-third and promoting mental wellness in the Americas and globally.

I am grateful to Dr Barbosa and the team at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for inviting Guyana to participate in this event. Additionally, I would like to congratulate the Commission on the successful presentation of its Report.