Health Ministry hosts training workshop for suicide crisis helpline operators

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony. PAHO/WHO Representative to Guyana, Temporary Advisor at PAHO/WHO and Workshop facilitator, Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar and participants

The Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Unit, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), on Monday hosted the opening of a three-day Suicide Crisis Helpline Workshop at the Cara Lodge Hotel on Quamina Street.

With the Ministry’s commitment to undergo a revision of the National Mental Health Strategy Plan, the Ministry will soon launch a Suicide Crisis Helpline, making this workshop crucial and timely.

Over the next three days, individuals designated as operators for the hotline will gain the necessary skills and knowledge needed to manage patients and develop Standard Operating Procedures guidelines for the Helpline.

During his remarks, the Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony, informed those present of the recent progress made in the legislation regarding mental health and suicide prevention.

“With the help of PAHO and other experts, we were able to pull the document together and have a comprehensive piece of legislation. Before, we were working under the ordinances of 1934… In the Criminal Section of that law, if you attempt suicide, you can go to jail for two years. So we needed to change that, and we provided for a number of aspects we wanted to cover,” he stated.

While highlighting the ongoing efforts to implement the National Plan for Mental Health and Suicide, he disclosed that the strategic plan is set to be launched in the first quarter of this year.

According to the Minister, now that mental health services have been decentralised, there are indications that some affected communities were overlooked in previous years.“When we look at our stats, whether for suicide or mental health issues, we’ll see a lot of information about the coastal regions, and we take for granted that this is where the problem is prevalent. But now that we start taking services to some of the interior locations, we realize that they have similar problems, but before we weren’t capturing the data, “he explained.

In closing, Dr Anthony said that with the shortage of trained personnel to provide counselling throughout Guyana, a telepsychiatry project was implemented to reach individuals in remote regions.

“We don’t have a lot of trained people. We need to train more people in mental health. And while we don’t have enough trained people, we’ve started something last year where we wanted to use technology to reach people, so we’ve introduced telepsychiatry and in one particular region after we had a tragedy, we introduced telepsychiatry to the community and all the communities that were affected and link them to the Georgetown Public Hospital. In that way, rather than having a specialist on site and going to the remote communities, at least we have a bridge where they can come and get help,” he explained.

He mentioned that with the addition of 25 telemedicine sites across Guyana, they will be able to create potential opportunities to provide telepsychiatry to those in need.

Meanwhile, PAHO/WHO Representative to Guyana, Mr. Luis Codina stated that a new and strategic plan for mental health and suicide is crucial since it contains activities addressing the implementation of a helpline and other measures within Guyana.

Among those present were the director of the MoH Mental Health Unit, Dr. Timothy Morgan; the Temporary Advisor at PAHO/WHO and Workshop facilitator, Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar; Clinical Psychologist, Head of Psychological Services Training and Education, Dr Mark Constantine and other officials.