Children, adolescents are focus of new mental health programme

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Guyana is among several countries chosen to start an evidence-based action plan that focuses on the mental health and psychosocial needs of children and adolescents.

The new programme will be rolled out through a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO).

Cilandell Glen, the Coordinator for Adolescent Health at the Ministry of Health said the monitoring for signs of mental illness among youths will be taken into schools and communities.

Speaking at the launch of the programme Friday at the Grand Coast Hotel, East Coast Demerara, Glen said healthcare workers are also being trained to properly respond to the needs that this new initiative will identify.

“We will seek to build the workforce to ensure that we have capable persons in the areas of well-being and mental health. The programme will also seek improve data collection and monitoring across the country.

“By 2025 we also want to see the Mental Health and Adolescent Mental Health Unit working together with stakeholders to implement a national mental health policy,” Glen said.

Attendees at the launch of the programme at the Grand Coastal Hotel (Photo: DPI/ September 15, 2023)

She said the national mental health policy must be focused on preventative and responsive mental health prevention across the country and as such there must be capacity building for key stakeholders in order for this policy to be effective.

She said the teachers at schools will have to be trained to know signs and take necessary actions as required.

“We want to seek to implement a school based programme, a comprehensive school based programme, to address mental health and wellbeing, stigma and discrimination that is attached to mental health, especially with the children and adolescent population,” Glen stated.

She said the ministry recongises the stigma attached to mental illness, hence it will provide psychosocial support to young people.

Like many other countries, Guyana has refocused its healthcare system with massive emphasis placed on mental health.

Hence, the government hopes by targeting the issues, less persons will be institutionalized.

But this requires support from the community level for these persons, the country’s PAHO representative Dr Luis Codina said.

“We will need to work also in the community support that we see in other countries to receive these patients in their homes or institutions,” Dr Codina said.

He also said legislation must be in place to ensure there is legal support available.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony agreed that mental health care goes beyond the clinic and should be incorporated into the everyday lives of persons.

As such, the Ministry of Education, the Child Protection Agency and other welfare agencies will be part of this reformed system to prevent and offer support for persons.

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