Put mental health on front burner
-Region Six officer urges

By Jeune Bailey Van-Keric
Stabroek News
January 24, 2000

Regional Health Officer (RHO) for Region Six, Audrey Field, has expressed the hope that this year would provide the spark for a renewed effort to address the issue of mental health in Guyana.

In a review of the mental health sector, Field noted that Guyana had never properly placed mental health at the level where it deserved to be, and as a result continued to grapple with the problems arising from such a defect.

A serious problem in the realm of mental health in Berbice is the issue of suicide. This act is now one of the leading causes of death among those aged 16 to 45 years old, the RHO said in her review. Suicide attempts are 20 times more than actual suicides.

During last year, 11 suicide cases were recorded in East Berbice and for the first week of this year there were four such acts, where the underlying factor was reportedly either depression or substance abuse, Field said.

According to information supplied by Officer in Charge of 'B' Division, Vibert Smith, twenty-five-year-old Sohan Diaram, a labourer of Canefield, East Canje was expected to marry Vera Persaud, 17, on January 8, last, but a misunderstanding arose between the parents of the couple, and the event was cancelled. On January 1, members of his household slept at the house of another relative due to flooding in the area. The next morning his 13-year-old brother Suresh returned home and saw the body of Diaram hanging from the rafters.

Smith said that Mahendranauth Mangal, 30, a labourer of Number 57 Village, Corentyne, was a habitual drinker. On January 3, at 9 pm, he returned home under the influence of alcohol and told his relatives that he was fed up with life. He subsequently left the house and went into the yard, where he picked up a bottle with a poisonous substance and drank it. Mangal was rushed to the Skeldon Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Ivor Gilkes a/k Trevor, 17, of Whim Village, Corentyne was also a habitual drinker and would become annoyed when his mother Shirley Gilkes rebuked him about his behaviour. On January 6, at about 6 pm, he became annoyed at being scolded and left home. The next morning, his brother Mervin Roach was passing the Auchlyne koker, when he saw the body of Trevor suspended by a rope.

Fyamah Perimotto a/k Lonley, 63, of Number Two Village, West Coast Berbice had previously suffered from a nervous breakdown and was an out-patient at the National Psychiatric Hospital. On December 31, last, she went to her daughter's home at Number Two Settlement, Blairmont and said, she was fed up with life. At around 2 pm the same day, she poured kerosene on her clothing and struck a match. She was taken to the New Amsterdam Hospital where she died on January 7.

In an address at the dedication of the National Psychiatric Hospital on December 20, 1999. Dr Leslie Ramsammy, chairman of the Georgetown Public Hospital management committee and who is also overseeing health sector reforms, had stated that the goal of the national mental health programme was to improve the mental health, and the psycho-social well-being of Guyanese. This includes creating a positive sense of well-being; belief in their own worth and the dignity and worth of others; ability to initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships; ability to deal with the inner world of thinking, feeling, managing life and taking risks, and the ability of the mind to heal itself after shock or stress.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples