Young Guyanese bats for mental health in Paris, wins funding


By Ravin Singh

As advocacy efforts intensify in every corner of Guyana, mental health remains one of the critical areas that youths are looking to have a positive impact on.

So much so, that young advocate Shinelle Bayrd recently won a €6000 (or G$1.4M) grant in Paris to set up a Wellness Centre here.

She was one of about 10 youth participants who pitched their social projects to a panel of experts from around the world at the Youth Global Forum in Paris, earlier this month.

Shinelle Bayrd sells her idea of ‘The Wellness Centre’ to participants and the panel at the Youth Time International’s Youth Global Forum in Paris

The event was hosted by Youth Time International which is an organization that gathers together young people from around the globe to discuss issues affecting the world’s social development.

At the week-long event, some of the participants are given a chance to pitch social business ideas with the possibility of winning a grant.

Bayrd, who spoke to the News Room, shared that her project, ‘The Wellness Centre’ seeks to help individuals dealing with mental health issues.

Guyana continues to grapple with mental health which is reflected in its high rates of suicide.

The country was only recently pushed down to third behind Lithuania and Russia as the country with the highest rate of suicide. 

Shinelle Bayrd after winning a €6000 (or $1.4M) grant to fund ‘The Wellness Centre’ which she will set up next year to help raise awareness about mental health

To help in this regard, Bayrd said her Centre will be designed to provide help and support to those individuals, through support groups and self-help techniques, in addition to raising awareness about mental health in Guyana.

The support groups, she noted, will be both online and face-to-face, and individuals will be grouped based on their identified problem.

According to her, implementation of the project will commence in February 2019 and the office will be based in Georgetown since a larger portion of the population will be targeted.

She noted, however, that all services will be available until April because of logistical work.

“…we still have a lot of work to do in terms of getting certain alliances made and we’re hoping to get support from local entities… I reached out to a few sofar…” she said.

The young advocate said that her idea was birthed in 2016 while she was at an event in Argentina.

“My idea started back in 2016 when I was a speaker at the South American Business Forum in Argentina.

“I was doing an essay on happiness and the logic of emotions, and realized Guyana held the highest suicide rate in the world. I knew then that I needed to do something in this area,” Bayrd recalled.

For her, this win meant more than just the financial contribution. She said that it was a recognition that Guyana’s problems is one which people are willing to help solve once the effort is to reach out to them.

She shared too that the overwhelming support which she received at the event, is one which she is grateful for, and is happy to have made an impact on those she crossed paths with.

“I am still shocked by the win and beyond grateful that I was selected not just by the panel but with the overwhelming support of my fellow participants.

“It was an absolute pleasure securing the win for Guyana and letting people know not just the negatives but the positives of my country,” she said.

“Many persons told me how inspired my speech made them and I received an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement and I’m humbled by the experience,” Bayrd added.

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