Mental health conference to be led by Columbia University Prof Christina Hoven – Health Minister urges public to attend
Guyana’s second Mental Health and Wellbeing conference, slated for next week, will be led by Professor Christina Hoven, who is part of the team studying the country’s suicide rates.
Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony on Friday disclosed who some of the 20 exports participating are. He noted that having these experts in Guyana gives a greater opportunity for persons interested in the study of mental health and who want to learn more to meet the experts.
“One of our organizing partners is the Columbia University from New York and the lead for the conference is Professor Christina Hoven. She and a number of her colleagues would be leading this effort for this academic conference here in Guyana,” Dr Anthony said.
Dr Hoven is a Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in Psychiatry at Columbia University in the US and will be joined by Professor Prabha Chandra, who specialises in psychiatry at the National institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India and Professor Norman Sartorius, considered to be a top professor working to improve mental health programmes in Geneva, Switzerland.
The conference will commence on November 15 and end on November 18. Dr Anthony said this conference, which is among several projects to educate the public on mental l health and wellbeing, will give persons studying the field an opportunity to have conversations with the professionals.
He said, “It is a really good opportunity to come to the conference and be able to interact with some of the prestigious professionals in mental health globally. We would like to have all our professional persons who are interested in this area to join us ad to make sure that they get as much out of the conference as possible.”
He explained that there will be participation from the Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). He said Caribbean countries are expected to participate as well.
For many years mental health was neglected in Guyana and due to the stigma attached to mental illness, many persons do not seek medical treatment. The Government of Guyana, with the assistance of international bodies such as PAHO/WHO and the University of Columbia, which is currently carrying out a study on suicide and trauma response in Guyana, has developed a new Mental Health Act which targets the treatment and response for persons who have mental illnesses.
The government is also aiming to deinstitutionalise mental health patients – a move that will allow them to operate in society and only undergo clinic visits.
Notably, there are about 400 patients at the National Psychiatric Hospital in Region Six; however, the issue is that the relatives of these persons do not want to help them to become well.