20% of population suffers from mental health issues

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By: Rupa Seenaraine

An estimated 20% of the country’s population suffers from some form of mental illness, says Director of the Mental Health Unit, Dr Util Richmond-Thomas.

She was at the time delivering remarks during the launching of the hotline number dedicated specifically for mental health.

“Due to stigma, discrimination and severe human rights violation of those afflicted, as well as their family members, a large number of persons prefer not to acknowledge their vulnerability or seek help. But whether we want to admit it or not, the prevalence of mental health issues is approximately 15 to 20 percent of the population…,” she said.

“One in five people who have COVID-19 are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety, depression and insomnia within six months of testing for the virus. The pandemic is one example where physical illness is a stressor that can lead to mental illness,” Dr Richmond-Thomas added.

Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviour.

Meanwhile, Dr Richmond-Thomas went on to say that there are many factors which lead to such mental problems and psychosocial stresses have led to an increased use of alcohol and drugs.

“Given the worldwide historical neglect and underfunding of mental health and the mismatched need for services compared to the actual provision of it, and given the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that the need for mental health and psychosocial support services will increase with the coming months and years. Investment in mental health at this moment is very critical,” she noted.

The hotline number initiative is a collaborative effect between the Ministry of Health, the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Guyana Telephone Telegraph Company (GTT).

The hotline number is 655-7233.