Medical personnel and social workers from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) graduated on Friday from a four-day training course in mental health, according to the Department of Public Information (DPI).
The training has come in the wake of thousands of redundancies in the sugar industry and concerns about the impact this is having on the mental health of these former sugar workers.
A closing ceremony, where the graduates were issued their certificates, was held at GuySuCo’s staff club at its La Bonne Intention’s (LBI) head office.
Minister in the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings said that Guyana was affected by mental health issues particularly in the area of suicide.
“Therefore, for this reason the government since assuming office is taking strides to address it. Hence, the programme is necessary and timely especially since GuySuCo is going through a phase at this time”, Dr. Cummings noted.
She added that the aim of the training is to provide non-specialised doctors with the requisite skills and knowledge to better screen patients and provide diagnostic assessment that includes treatment and long-term care for persons living with mental ailments.
DPI said that the members of the team are now skilled in the area of depression psychosis, epilepsy, child and adolescent mental and behavioural disorders, dementia, self-harm suicide and other mental health issues. These conditions are what is seen in 95 percent cases of mental health.
Dr. Cummings said, “This programme imbues non-specialised doctors, like yourself, with a confidence that you previously didn’t have in your field of mental health. The strategic aims of this mental health learning schedule are to improve the general practitioners’ skills and confidence, the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions using evidence based strategies and tools, increase the physician’s awareness of community mental health resources…..”
The Minister said that suicide is everybody’s business and pointed out that the Ministry’s mental health institute will soon come onboard. “So for those mental issues we don’t want persons going to the `mad house’ the acute cases will go to the Georgetown Public Hospital but for chronic cases we’ll have them dealt with at the mental health institute.”
Director of the Ministry’s Mental Health Unit, Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas stated that the training is the first of its type aimed at GuySuCo workers. She said that the Ministry is working very hard to address human resource needs in order to take care of mental health issues across the country.
The director noted, “Currently we have six psychiatrists from a population of over 750,000 persons and that is less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 persons. So there’s a scarce supply of psychiatrists, psychologists and occupational therapists as well; so we have lots of deficiencies in the mental health team.”
DPI said that she pointed out that currently there are five psychiatrist residents in training and within another three years, four of them will help at the national level.
The four-day programme was a collaboration between the Ministry of Public Health and GuySuCo. It saw workers from GuySuCo estates, including Rose Hall, Skeldon, East Demerara, Wales and Uitvlugt.