THE Ministry of Health on October 10 joined the worldwide observance of Mental Health Day with introspection, under the theme ‘Depression: A Global Crisis’.
The inclusion of depression in the theme is due to its prevalence because it is estimated that more than 350 million people are affected by it, the Minister of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsaran told a media briefing Wednesday.
He recognised that mental health in Guyana and other Third World countries is, regrettably, on the back burner.
However, he stated that Guyana is coming into its own and as a result, the authorities will be moving to increase the focus on mental health.
Ramsaran said, throughout the country, there has been recognition of the impact non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have on society, so the Health Ministry is shifting gears to efficiently address those issues.
Importantly, he said, at the World Health Assembly and the recently concluded 28th Regional Conference of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), it was acknowledged that mental health matters are also linked to NCDs and, in response, Guyana will be working with the international community to put them on the front burner.
While interventions regarding mental health have been made quietly, money has been set aside in the National Budget for enhancements at the Psychiatric Hospital in Canje, Berbice and several nurses have received training in the discipline, he disclosed.
Ramsaran said the ministry is not satisfied with the number of nurses who received this specialist training and, as such, attention will be given to integrating mental health studies into the nursing programme.
He emphasised that this would facilitate the introduction of the related care in the primary health care system and, once it is available at that level, the service will be accessible and people can receive treatment in the early stages.
The Medex Programme will also have a similar component integrated, the minister announced, emphasising that mental health patients are entitled to the basic rights, like being treated as a human beings.
However, unfortunately, this has not been happening not only in Guyana but in other systems, as patients are neglected by their families, community and even institutions.
In this regard, Ramsaran said the ministry is committed to more invasive and expansive mental health training programmes.
He said his ministry is working with the Ministry of Human Services to address the issue of vagrants, many of whom are on the streets of the city due to drug use and other issues.
The Health Ministry is also moving to strengthen relations with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as the Salvation Army and Phoenix Foundation to expand the services.
Senior Psychiatrist, Dr. Bhiro Harry pointed out that efforts to address mental health issues are not being done in an ad hoc manner but there is a National Mental Health Strategy which guides the decisions and plans made.
With regards to ensuring the strategy has a good backing, work is almost complete on the legislative aspect and those professionals who have already passed through the nursing programme will be included in special training sessions.