Guyana Introducing Self-harm Surveillance Initiative to Reduce Suicides

Director of the Mental Health Unit Dr. Util Richmond-Thomas.

 

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday June 28, 2017 – A National Self-Harm Surveillance project will be launched in Guyana next month in an attempt to reduce what authorities say is an alarming number of cases of non-suicidal self-injury.

“If we can get the majority of self-harm and depression cases treated, we can drastically reduce the suicide rate,” Director of the Mental Health Unit Dr Util Richmond-Thomas explained.

The project will be launched in Region Two, Three and Six, mainly because those regions have the highest suicide rates. Dr. Richmond-Thomas said that in Region Three alone, 93 self-harm cases have already been recorded for 2017. Thirty suicide deaths were officially recorded at the West Demerara Regional Hospital for the same period.

“Self-harm is the strongest indicator of future suicide,” Dr Richmond-Thomas said. Adding that many people who commit suicide would have had several incidences of self-harm in their past, she said:“It means, therefore, that if the self-harm was being treated while it was occurring it may not have led to suicide.”

Under the National Self-Harm Surveillance project, all cases of self-harm must be reported to the Mental Health Unit within one week of presentation. Once reported, those individuals would have to see a psychiatrist or mental health gap (mhGAP) doctor. There are over 40 mhGAP doctors locally. Each person will receive psychotherapy by a psychologist and then followed up by a social worker until they are no longer high-risk patients.

“Making sure they are properly treated will just ensure that they have better quality of life,” Dr. Richmond-Thomas said.

She said that the unit’s drive to battle suicide, “is well on its way”, with the Ministry of Public Health rolling out several mental health projects.

“The National Self-Harm Surveillance follows closely on the heels of the mhGAP Intervention Guide programme, which recently saw non-specialized doctors trained with the necessary skills and knowledge to better screen patients and provide diagnostic assessment for persons living with mental health illnesses. This programme seeks to provide efficient care at primary health care facilities across the nation,” the doctor explained.

She added that the integration of mental health into primary health care is an extremely important strategy for the Ministry of Public Health, for the Mental Health Unit and for the mental health of all Guyanese.

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