Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence says the government will do more to address the issue of young people’s mental health at the level of the schools.
The minister was addressing the University of Guyana’s (UG) first mental health fair, in observance of World Mental Health Day.
She said that during the first quarter of 2019 secondary school teachers will be trained to recognize mental health disorders. This will be carried out by the Ministry of Public Health’s Mental Health Unit.
“The unit is seeking to target secondary school in a more connected manner. The intent is to train teachers in the first quarter of 2019 to recognize mental behavioural disorders so that they will be better positioned to identify students who may have mental health issues. In this way, they may be referred, and support would be provided by a core of health professionals that will include doctors trained in mental health, social workers and personnel from the mental health unit,” the minister underscored.
Minister Lawrence also highlighted that mental health awareness activities and psychosocial support by mental health resource personnel will be ongoing in schools. This will be supported by the home and family life education programmes where the focus will be on educating students on the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness.
Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Representative, Dr William Adu-Krow said young people and mental health is a challenge. He pointed out that half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14, adding that suicide is the leading cause of death among youths aged 15 to 19.
“When we see warning signs we need to take note. The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions mean that it will progress into something else, by the time they are adults, they have a full-blown mental issue.”
University of Guyana (UG) students, Reisa Roberts and Shekinah Stuart, are of the view that the initiative would help to raise awareness among young people since students from several secondary schools were in attendance.
According to Shekinah Stuart, the different speakers at the opening ceremony “gave a very deep insight of what mental illness is and how people have different perceptions of it; and how we can actually handle it. Minister Volda Lawrence spoke about how important it is that we handle and know how to talk when dealing with mental illness, depression, anxiety stress and everything else.”
This year’s observance is themed “Young people in mental health in a changing world.” Depression was highlighted as one of the leading mental disorders among individuals between the ages of 14 to 29 years.
There were also several health booths at the mental health fair raising awareness on the issue.