‘Early action’ needed to promote mental wellbeing – UNICEF rep.
Mental health is critical to ensuring people live fulfilling lives, as such, country representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nicolas Pron says conversations to promote wellness must start at schools.
Pron was among several speakers at the opening ceremony of a three-day Mental Health and Wellbeing conference at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre. He said it is necessary that conversations about mental health issues and appropriate responses to its effects are introduced in schools.
It is with this in mind that UNICEF engaged the Ministry of Education to discuss ways that mental wellness can be explored within the curriculum.
“Guyana is definitely on the right track to tackle mental health and wellbeing at the early onset at the school level and acting early is the best way to tackle poor mental health.
“Next year, UNICEF will be gathering available data to support the development of a comprehensive mental health plan which will be used to guide the implementation of further interventions,” Pron said.
He said these interventions are critical to achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals.
As part of efforts to target children and adolescents, the Health Ministry this year launched the pilot programme on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing in the development of children and adolescents. This was done through UNICEF.
A new mental health legislation and the suicide prevention legislation were also developed to ensure persons are properly cared for.
The conference is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health, the University of Guyana and several international bodies. The primary objectives are to hold discussions about global responses and recommendations for dealing with mental health.
As was done in previous years, adolescents are encouraged to join the conversation and will be part of the conference on Wednesday.
Emmanuel Cummings, UG’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, shared similar sentiments as Pron and said the university has also engaged the Education Ministry to have social workers at schools. He said how parents react to stress and late interventions are all factors that lead to mental health issues.
“Parenting, which to my mind, is a major factor that might have contributed to a lot of the issues we have in mental health, can also be part of the solution and certainly we will listen to those discussions and what we can learn from that.
“Persons with disabilities can become victims of discrimination and have all sorts of issues with mental health,” the Deputy Vice-Chancellor said, adding that this conference is important for developing a holistic response to mental health issues.
Meanwhile, Professor Christina Hoven, who is attached to Columbia University, USA, said persons interested in assisting with promoting mental health and research can get enrolled in the Guyana Research in Injury and Trauma Training (GRITT) programme.
This programme is offered by UG and focuses on building research capacity on trauma and injury prevention and the promotion of mental health.
This is a fellowship programme that is conducted for 18 months. Professor Hoven said the research is critical to ensuring persons who suffer from trauma and injuries have good mental health guidance.
“What we are doing is trying to go beyond the usual risk factors and we want to understand and develop interventions to prevent trauma and injury in all the forms and that includes suicide which we are highly focused on but it also includes thinking about how do we do better about all the automobile crashes,” Professor Hoven said.
She noted that Guyana’s data depict several indicators for mental health issues to arise through injuries. Registration for the next cohort commences on March 15 2024 and interested persons can visit the conference or www.guyana-well-being.com.gritt.