More accessible mental health services, focus on substance abuse part of new action plan


Guyana’s new National Mental Health Action Plan and National Suicide Prevention Plan, targeting the years 2024 to 2030, was launched on Tuesday.

Though stakeholders believe the focus on mental health has increased over the year, Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony explained that the new plan will address how substance abuse can be dealt with.

“One of the things you will see in the new action plan is an area we haven’t paid much attention to, substance abuse,” Dr. Anthony said on Tuesday’s launch of the new plan.

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony at the launch of the plan (Photo: Ministry of Health/ April 09, 2024)

Substance abuse refers to the pattern of drug use – be it illegal drugs, prescription drugs or alcohol – in excessive amounts. Substance abuse can lead to several issues including social, physical and emotional problems.

Dr. Anthony explained that the Health Ministry provides support to persons battling substance abuse at about 10 clinics, and it supports two major non-governmental organisations (the Salvation Army and Phoenix Recovery) that help those affected too.

Looking ahead, Dr. Anthony said the Health Ministry hopes to find other partners to tackle substance abuse.

Another huge focus of the plan is the decentralisation of mental health services throughout Guyana. In hinterland regions, this will be done primarily through the novel telemedicine services.

“… we have 25 (telemedicine) sites in region 1, 7, 8, 9 and 10  where we have this infrastructure and we will add another 25 sites in another month,” Dr. Anthony said.

This new plan was developed in accordance with the National Mental Protection and Promotion Bill of 2022 and the Suicide Prevention Act of 2022. It is also expected to adopt a human rights approach to addressing mental health and suicide, thereby improving the treatment of patients suffering from these conditions.

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