Speech on World Health Day – April 7, 2017 By Dr Util Richmond-Thomas, Director, Mental Health Unit, MOPH

Today April 7th 2017 is World Health Day.

It is also the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO).  On its birthday, this prestigious organization has chosen to focus on that poorly understood, very common, largely untreated but very treatable   disease – Depression.

The theme is ‘Let’s Talk’.

Depression is the largest cause of disability worldwide. The WHO estimated that in 2015, 300 million persons suffered from Depression globally. This is a staggering 4.4% of the world’s population. It affects persons of all ages and all walks of life. However, poverty, unemployment, adverse life events, losses, illnesses, alcohol and substance abuse put one at risk.

Depression is also the major contributor to suicide deaths, which number approximately 800,00 per year globally. It occurs over the life span but is the leading cause of death in 15-29 yr olds globally.

It makes sense for governments to invest in the treatment of depression. The symptoms of depression significantly decrease the quality of life of those afflicted by it. They are low energy, fatigue, sleep problems, persistent sadness and depressed mood, anxiety, loss of interest or pleasure in activities that one previously found pleasurable, and multiple persistent physical symptoms without clear cause.

In addition, these, persons often stay away from work and school and when they do work they are very unproductive. The productivity of the population generate income for the country. Decrease productivity means less income for the sufferer, the employer and the country. Less money in the pocket means less spending and demand for products. Businesses are forced to retrench or cut wages to compensate, thus further escalating the spiral. Meanwhile there is increased expenditure on healthcare and welfare. Recession is not a far-fetched idea.

The Mental Health Unit is aiming to hit depression hard. We intend to be aggressive with public education. Across the ten regions we will be training all non-specialist doctors to treat depression, self-harm/suicide and several other priority mental health conditions. These include psychosis, dementia, epilepsy, alcohol and substance use. This training has already begun and there are currently 14 doctors in region 6, 20 doctors in region 3, and 18 doctors, nurses and social workers in Region 4 being trained to treat these priority mental health conditions.  We aim to have all doctors in health centres and hospitals throughout Guyana proficient in treating these conditions.

With the help of PAHO we expect to shortly begin training health care professionals to facilitate therapy groups for persons with depression.  Our aim is to have a functioning group in every hospital and every health centre.

One does not need to suffer. Depression is a very treatable condition. And now for sufferers in Guyana, there is hope.  The first step to recovery is talking. Talk to a trusted family member, friend, teacher, health care professional, or someone from your religious community …and most definitely talk to your health care provider about what you are going through and what you are feeling and thinking.

There is help for you… so …Let’s Talk.




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