Georgetown, GINA August 12, 2016
The level of mental health care offered by the Ministry of Public Health will be improved and the Mental Health Unit will seek to further decentralise its service to the community level.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, speaking on the issue of decentralisation said, “The Ministry of Public Health has already commenced a process to conduct an HR review that will lead to an HR strategic Plan after which the MoPH and its partners will identify, train, and allocate additional resources to boost the mental health services particularly at the community level,” Minister Cummings added.
Minister Cummings also identified the need for a review of the current mental health legislation that does not allow for extensive mental health care and is outdated. It has also been recognised that persons with mental disorders are more prone to become victims of suicide.
Minister Cummings explained that, “Several risk factors contribute to the high suicide rates in Guyana. The most common risk factors identified are acute emotional distress and depression. This factor accounts for 36.6 % of all cases. The care of the mentally ill is provided under the legislative framework of the Mental Health Ordinance of 1930, which is antiquated and fails to make provision for the protection of the rights of people with mental disorders.”
Meanwhile, Director of the Mental Health Unit, Dr. Meenawattie Rajkumar, in an invited telephone comment with Government Information Agency (GINA), stated that the unit had not been properly structured to cater to mentally ill patients prior to May 2016.
Dr. Rajkumar added that the unit can now offer counselling and occupational therapy to these patients in a refurbished environment. She said that the unit is equipped with five psychiatrists, eight Social Workers and a pharmacy for the patients to have easier access to treatment.
Dr. Rajkumar remarked that the aim of the Metal Health Unit is to break the stigma that is attached to mental illness in Guyana. Located at 252 Quamina Street, South Cummingsburg, the unit caters for patients with mental disorders on an out-patient basis.
The unit’s Director said that the Public Health Ministry intends to upgrade the GPHC’s psychiatric department as a specialised in-patient unit, housing patients according to their level of diagnosis.
The organisation of mental health services, beds and professionals in Guyana is currently centralised, responding to persons with mental disorders and concentrating them at the National Psychiatric Hospital at Canje, Berbice and the Georgetown Public Hospital Psychiatric ward.
Persons with mental disorders are reported to suffer discrimination in their communities, workplaces, educational institutions, judicial services and the health care system.