Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Unit will undertake a number of initiatives in 2023 to improve mental health services across Guyana.
The Mental Health Protection and Promotion Bill, that was passed in the National Assembly on August 8, will make mental health services more accessible to persons in all regions of Guyana.
Dr. Timothy Morgan was part of a team of local Guyanese experts responsible for the creation of the modern Mental Health Bill and was appointed coordinator of the Mental Health Unit on January 17, 2022.
One initiative that starts this month and Dr. Morgan says will expand next year is the training of primary healthcare workers and community leaders in suicide prevention.
“It’s what is called the gatekeepers training for suicide prevention. The training is going to encompass around 150 persons across Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Most importantly, they know their limits. They are the non-professionals but they are in the communities. They are going to link the at-risk persons that they detect for suicide, to suitable mental health services in an efficient and coordinated manner.”
Minister of Health Dr Anthony said earlier this year that statistics show 15-20 percent of the Guyanese population have some form of mental health illness, be it mild, severe, or acute.
In 2019, Guyana's age standardised suicide rate was estimated as 40·9 per 100,000, the highest rate for the country in nearly two decades and the second highest suicide rate in the world.
National Coordinator for Suicide Prevention Alicia Solomon was appointed as Clinical Coordinator for the Guyana Well-Being (GWB) Study which will be expanded to more regions across Guyana in the coming year.
“With the Columbia project, we’re going to see the expansion of the study which will expand the age group where we will be looking at ages 10 to 24. It will also expand across the other five administrative regions as well.”
This study measures risk with respect to self-harm in individuals above the age of 15 who have either attempted or completed any aspect of self-harm.
Dr. Morgan says Guyana has also acquired psychometric toolkits for Guyana’s only two child psychiatrists. These toolkits will be used to diagnose Intellectual Disability and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Based on a recommendation from a 2008 World Health Organisation Report on Mental Health Systems in Guyana, a functional plan for the National Psychiatric Hospital was also be developed in 2023.
This plan will allow for the clinical, functional and social evaluations of persons admitted in order to develop an individualized comprehensive therapeutic plan that includes their re-integration into society.
In 2023, psychiatrists will also be placed in Regions 4, 5, 6 and 9, and Psychiatric Units will be established in regional hospitals.