Nationwide survey on mental health to be launched

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* TVC takes lead

A nationwide survey on mental health will soon be launched, as efforts intensify to help persons with mental health disorders and to prevent the illness from further progressing.

TCV Managing Director Bibi Ahmad

TCV Managing Director Bibi Ahmad

Given the fact that mental health illnesses in Guyana are now reaching great heights, non-governmental organisation (NGO), The Caribbean Voice (TCV) decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and take the lead.

TCV Managing Director Bibi Ahmad was quoted in today’s Guyana Times  as saying the data gathered from the survey will be used to aid and guide the organisation in helping vulnerable groups in order to monitor, control and prevent mental disorders.

“There is a dire need for more focus on mental health in Guyana, particularly when it comes to suicide prevention. We need to address these issues from the core,” she stated.

Surveys are costly to conduct and require significant amount of work, which is one of the main reasons why statistical data on a number of pertinent issues in Guyana has been lacking.

Ahmad further explained that the organisation was hoping that by now, the Government would have published current data on mental health illness and related issues in Guyana.

She maintained that having more available data on the state of mental health in Guyana will aid significantly in developing strategies to reduce the suicide rate in the country.

Though the survey will be spearheaded by TCV, the organisation is extending an invitation to other NGOs, the civil society, the Private Sector and to the Government to join them in this effort. TCV is still in the planning stages of this initiative, but it is hoping to launch the survey before the new year.

Relevant studies in the Americas indicate there is likely a prevalence of 10 to 15 per cent of the population with a mental disorder at any one time, with three to five per cent of the population having a severe chronic mental disorder. This is according to a World Health Organisation – Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) on the mental health system in Guyana.

The 2008 report said, given a population estimate of 750,000, this would predict that 75,000 to 112,500 Guyanese suffer from mental disorders and require some level of mental health care services. Of these, approximately 22,500 to 37,500 would be expected to suffer from severe mental illnesses.

These projections do not include the number of patients with epilepsy and mental retardation, which are not surveyed in typical psychiatric epidemiologic studies, but are included in the population serviced by mental health care services in Guyana. The report said that the mental health system in Guyana is fragmented, poorly resourced, and not integrated into the general healthcare system.

It noted that although care of the mentally ill is provided for under the legislative framework of the Mental Health Ordinance of 1930, this is antiquated and fails to make provisions for the protection of the rights of people with mental disorders.

Senior Psychiatrist of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Dr Bhiro Harry, recently announced that the legislation is being revised and in its draft version; patients have been given much more rights than before. Last year, the Public Health Ministry launched Guyana’s National Mental Health Strategy 2015-2020, which outlines a coherent strategic framework for guiding the development of new plans, while bringing alignment and synergy to the Ministry’s national and international activities over the next five years. In addition, it will serve to coordinate development and technical assistance and other partnerships in health.

Among the programmes and services which are earmarked for implementation are: the National Suicide Prevention Programme; the Integration of Mental Health into Primary Care, Drug and Alcohol Prevention Programme; Psycho Geriatric Clinic; extend and enhance satellite clinics to communities (Diamond, Leonora, Mahaicony, Enmore and other communities with such needs).

Stakeholders have also urged that the Ministry take into consideration the stigma, social exclusion and discrimination that occur around people with mental disorders which compound the situation. Reports indicate that persons with mental disorders are reported to suffer discrimination in their communities, the workplace, educational institutions and the healthcare system.

According to the Guyana Times report, this was glaringly evident in the case of the young lady on the Essequibo Coast who was inhumanely locked away owing to mental illness.

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