Region Three doctors better equipped to address mental health issues through mhGAP-IG programme

DPI/GINA, GUYANA, Friday, June 23, 2017

Nineteen doctors from Region Three are now able to effectively attend to, and provide medical assistance to persons seeking mental health services at a community based level. This is the third batch of Doctors who have graduated from the programme. This ceremony was held at the West Demerara Regional Hospital, Wednesday afternoon. Regions 6 and 4 have mental health workers presently.

The Nineteen mental healthcare workers, posing with Director of mental health unit Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas, Regional Executive Officer Denis Jaikaran, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health Dr. Karen Cummings, and Regional Health Officer Dr. Naail Uthman.

These doctors were trained through the Ministry of Public Health’s (MOPH) mhGAP Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG) programme. The mental health practitioners will be attached to the West Demerara Regional Hospital, La Grange, Parika, Vergenoegen, Wakenaam and Canal No 1 among others.

This programme is part Guyana’s National Mental Health Action plan 2015-2020. This training aims to provide non-specialised doctors with the requisite skills and knowledge to better screen patients and provide diagnostic assessment for persons living with mental health illnesses. The mhGAP is to ensure that Primary Health Facilities across the country are equipped with efficient non specialised health care providers to deal with mental health issues. They were trained using the World Health Organization recognised mhGAP-IG standard.

Minister within the MOPH Dr. Karen Cummings, in her feature address, at the graduating ceremony urged the graduating class to make their contribution to mental health, “This training you received will place you in an excellent position to do your part in contributing to the overall national effort,” so as to competently address mental health in Guyana.

The strategic aims of this mental health learning programme, Minister Cummings explained, are to increase General Practitioners’ skills and confidence in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions using evidence-based strategies and tools; increase physicians’ awareness of community mental health resources; increase physician’s ability to develop care plans; and improve the patients’ experience.

Director of the Mental Health Unit Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas pointed out that 15-20 percent of Guyana’s population is battling with a mental health issues, at any given period. She explained that this programme will aid in revolutionizing Guyana’s fight against this ilk of health issue. “Our suicide rate is just the tip of the ice berg however. It is merely a single event which marks the culmination of all the ills that went before.”

So far 12 deaths have been recorded since January 2017 at the West Demerara Regional Hospital; however 30 deaths were recorded in 2016. The director noted that this is just at the Regional Hospital, “Other cases were “probably presented to other hospitals.”

Dr.  Richmond-Thomas congratulated the nineteen health care workers, and explained that by having efficient primary health care providers, “It will make it easier for persons battling mental health issues. They will no longer have to be afraid to be seen going to the psychiatric clinic, and then after being the object of laughter, or ridicule, or even lose their jobs.”

With this new programme Dr.  Richmond-Thomas is optimistic that issues can be controlled by the doctor at the primary level, so as to prevent hospitalisation. Not only will patients now be able to have a one on one relationship, but studies have shown that patients do much better if their lives and daily activities are not disrupted, the Director explained.

Department of Public Information (DPI)/ Government Information Agency (GINA) spoke to two of the graduates, who

Minister Cummings presenting Dr. David Younge of the Parika Health Centre with his certificate.

both said that they are now better equipped to handle mental patients on a one on one basis, and by extension aid in the fight to reduce Guyana’s high suicide rate. Dr. David Younge, attached to the Parika Health Centre said “I am encouraged and a bit excited to put into practice what we would have learnt, and to share with my coworkers at the Health Centre”. He added that Parika has an active Mental Health Clinic. The clinic cares for approximately 70 patients, every third Friday of each month which is the designated clinic day.

Dr. Marcia Evelyn said that suicide in Wakenaam is predominant among young adults. Dr. Evelyn explained that the programme was very informative and she looks forward to sharing her experience with others at the Wakenaam Cottage Hospital.

Additionally, this mhGAP initiative is the “Cheapest and most effective mental health care,” Dr. Richmond-Thomas explained, Guyana will save money, because evidence shows that just three to five per cent of mental health patients will need hospitalisation. While stating that, “Majority of the money is spent on mental health institutions,” 95 per cent of patients can be managed in primary health care, with this programme. Only in serious cases will patients be referred to the National Psychiatric Hospital, and the Guyana Public Hospital Cooperation (GPHC). Efforts will be made to have a psychiatrist in Regions Two and Three soon.

Dr. Richmond-Thomas revealed  that a National Self Harm Surveillance System will be launched soon, because there are a startling number of these types of cases.


By: Zanneel Williams




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