The Ministry of Public Health through the Mental Health Unit is working towards having at least 50 per cent of non specialised health care providers in Guyana trained to address mental health issues. The unit has recognised that it would be more efficient to identify and deal with mental illnesses at the primary health care level.
The training of these professionals stems from initiatives outlined in the National Mental Health Action plan 2015-2020.
Dr. Util Richmond -Thomas, Director, Mental Health Unit, Ministry of Public Health
Director of the Mental Health Unit, Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas, said that this is an effort to transition the mental health care system from institutionalization to community based mental health care.
“One of the major things in the National Mental Health Action Plan 2015-2020 is community mental health care so, that’s a major direction in which we are going. We are changing from institutionalized mental health care to community mental health care and one of the largest initiatives in community mental care is training non-specialist doctors in Guyana to combat the major mental health condition,” the director explained.
The doctors will be trained using the World Health Organization recognised mhGAP-IG standard. The mhGAP Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG) for mental, neurological and substance use disorders for non-specialist health settings, is a technical tool. This tool has been developed for use by health-care providers working in non-specialized health-care settings after adaptation for national and local needs.
“They (healthcare professionals) will be trained to identify the main priority conditions very early so that they don’t become serious, they don’t develop a lot of complications and so on, to the extent where you would have to be hospitalized or you would have to end up at the National Psychiatric Hospital… they will be doing quite a lot of education with the family and the caregivers and they will be diagnosing and treating these stable conditions (as well).” Dr Richmond-Thomas said.
The Director of the Mental Health Unit said that the healthcare providers will able to tend to priority conditions such as depression, self-harm, suicide, psychosis, drug and alcohol disorder, epilepsy, dementia and a few other conditions.
The non-specialists at health posts, health centres and district hospitals will also be able to provide counseling not only to victims but, also to members of the community.
Additionally, the staff will be expected to provide preventative care in the form of spreading awareness, informing residents of the risks factors and effects of mental illnesses.
Training is currently being done in regions Three, Four, Five and Six while a team is occasionally put together to target healthcare workers within the hinterland.
The work of the mental health unit is guided by two main strategies, the National Mental Health Action Plan 2015-2020 and the National Suicide Prevention Plan 2015 – 2020.
These two plans provide the necessary guidance to all sectors and stakeholders with an aim to effect positive change in the society with regards to mental illnesses in Guyana.