CAD $2.9M project launched to support mental health in Guyana

The Guyana Mental Health and Well-Being (GWB) conference, continued Tuesday afternoon at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, with the launch of the CAD$2.9 million International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF) project to support mental health in Guyana.

Canada’s Minister of International Development, Harjit Sajjan, via video message made the announcement, the first such investment in the Caribbean region.

Dr Frank Anthony, Minister of Health

Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony expressed the government’s gratitude to the people and Government of Canada for the contribution.

“As you can see a large component of the IDRF programme would be working with students and with persons in community….to have our communities prepared [to deal with mental health]. It is wonderful to have this team here and we express our gratitude to the Government and People of Canada for funding IDRF to come to Guyana to work with us in this area of mental health,” Minister Anthony stated.

He pointed to the strong relationship shared by Guyana and Canada, particularly in the area of healthcare.

“Guyana and Canada we have a very strong relationship and I think that relationship is even stronger in the area of healthcare… but more recently during the COVID pandemic Canada has really step forward in assisting the government and the people of Guyana when we did not have vaccine for example,” Minister Anthony said.

Meanwhile, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana and Suriname, Mark Berman explained the need for financial intervention in support of mental health initiatives.

“The magnitude of the mental health burden is not matched by size and the effectiveness in response, it demands …two thirds of countries allocate [only] one per cent or less of their health budget to mental health with the poor often bearing the greater burden in terms of risk and lack of access to treatment,” the ambassador highlighted.

Through the IDRF project some 67, 750 persons are expected to benefit over a five-year period.

This will be done in partnership with the Ministry of Health under the theme, Safeguarding the Human Dignity and Rights of Population At-Risk for Ill-Mental Health in Vulnerable Communities Across Guyana.

H. E. Mark Berman, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana and Suriname, and other IDRF stakeholders at the project launch

IDRF is a Canadian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), founded on principles that address the root causes of poverty. It concentrates on helping persons with long-term development to alleviate poverty and preventable diseases among other issues.

The NGO has also been working with the health ministry to customise a therapeutic-driven approach to address ill-mental health as an underlying cause of vulnerability and poverty, among vulnerable communities.

Many participants commended the Government of Guyana for efforts aimed at addressing mental illness with complementary legislation such as the Mental Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Suicide Prevention Act of 2022.

Mahmoud Quasim, CEO, IDRF; Yasmeena Mohamed, Co-Chair IDRF Board; members of the international and local academic community, UNICEF, PAHO/WHO and other stakeholders were in attendance.

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