Self-harm initiative to further reduce suicide prevalence – Mental Health Unit Director

DPI/GINA, GUYANA, Monday, June 26, 2017

The Director of the Mental Health Unit Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas recently explained to DPI/GINA, that due to the alarming number of self-harm cases, the decision has been taken to launch “The National Self- Harm Surveillance” project come July. “If we can get the majority of self-harm and depression cases treated, we can drastically reduce the suicide rate,” the Director said.

Director of the Mental Health Unit Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas.

Self-harming cases are also known as non-suicidal self-injury. Dr. Richmond-Thomas explained that in Region Three alone, 93 self-harm cases have already been recorded for 2017. Thirty suicide deaths were officially recorded at the West Demerara Regional Hospital for the same period.  The National Self- Harm Surveillance project will be launched, initially, in Region Two, Three and Six, mainly because those regions have the highest suicide rates.

“Self-harm is the strongest indicator of future suicide,” Dr. Richmond-Thomas stated. She further explained that many persons who commit suicide would have had several incidences of self-harm in their past, “It means therefore that if the self-harm was being treated while it was occurring it may not have led to suicide.”

The Programme Director explained how “The National Self- Harm Surveillance project will work. All cases of self-harm must be reported to the Mental Health Unit within one week of presentation. Once reported, persons will then have to see a psychiatrist or mhGAP doctor. There are over 40 mhGAP doctors locally. Each case will receive psychotherapy by a psychologist and then followed up by a social worker until they are no longer high-risk patients.

The Unit will also be implementing a self-harm screening tool, which is a questionnaire. The questionnaire will aid in the fight against suicide. The pilot screening tool is expected to be rolled out in three major hospitals in Regions Two, Three and Six soon.

“Making sure they (patients) are properly treated will just ensure that they have better quality of life,” Dr. Richmond-Thomas added. She said that the unit’s drive to battle suicide, “is well on its way”, with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) rolling out several mental health projects.

“The National Self- Harm Surveillance follows closely on the heels of the mhGAP Intervention Guide (mental health GAP-IG) programme, which recently saw  non-specialised doctors trained with the necessary skills and knowledge to better screen patients and provide diagnostic assessment for persons living with mental health illnesses. This programme seeks to provide efficient care at primary health care facilities across the nation. This programme is part Guyana’s National Mental Health Action plan 2015-2020.

mhGAP doctors have been trained in Region Three, Four and Six so far. The Ministry of Public Health’s Mental Health unit will be launching the National Self- Harm Surveillance project come July, Director of the unit Dr.Util Richmond-Thomas said

The doctor further stated that the, “Integration of mental health into primary health care is an extremely important strategy for the MOPH, for the mental health unit and for the mental health of all Guyanese”.


By: Zanneel Williams


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