Health Ministry to roll out mental health interventions in schools as mental illness caseload is estimated to be 20,000

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With Guyana’s healthcare system now witnessing a significantly high caseload of persons affected by severe mental illnesses, health authorities say they are formulating a multifaceted approach to address this crisis. 

Earlier this week, Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony announced that an estimated 20,000 people living in Guyana are suffering from mental illnesses while the suicide rate among young people is on an upward trajectory. He made these revelations at the opening of the Mental Health and Well-being conference on Monday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre. 

This worrying reality has prompted the Ministry of Health to examine new and improved ways to address mental health disorders.

Dr. Anthony, during Thursday’s health update noted the ministry’s first step in tackling mental health disorders among young people locally was to employ two Child Psychologists. He said further that the monthly mental health clinics which were only available at the Georgetown Public Hospital have been extended to various parts of the country. 

“Right now, we are in Regions Three, Four, Five, and Six and the intention is to expand it to the other regions as well,” he informed. 

In addition, a specialized classroom for children living with Autism has been expanded at the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre. 

Dr. Anthony underscored that the classroom is essentially important since in many cases, parents of children living with autism experience challenges with finding suitable schools for their children. 

The Ministry of Health will also be investing in a mental health programme that is expected to be integrated into local schools. The objective of the programme is to build youth resilience through awareness. The programme is being spearheaded by the International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF) which has received CAD$2.9M to aid Guyana’s efforts in reducing the prevalence of mental illnesses over the next five years. 

“They are going to be going into the school system, working with young people in schools. The intention is to reach at least six thousand children,” Dr. Anthony disclosed. 

He further divulged that the Ministry is aiming to adopt a train-the-trainer model for the programme so that local experts would eventually be able to impart knowledge to others and utilize the techniques they learn from the IDRF team. 

The programme would also see a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the President’s Youth Advisory Council.

 “All the members of the President’s youth council will partake in resilience training this week,” Dr. Anthony said.

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