The government, through the Ministry of Health’s Adolescent Health Unit, has launched its ‘Let’s Talk Green Bench’ initiative in schools which is geared towards promoting mental health and well-being among the younger population.
It was officially launched in observance of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday, at the North Georgetown Secondary School, under the theme: ‘Mental Health is a universal Human Right.’
Through this initiative, twenty-five benches will be installed at twenty-five schools across Guyana. It is intended to be a safe space for students to go and have conversations on issues that are affecting them without feelings of stigma or discrimination.
Students can also scan the barcode on the benches to access information on mental health.
Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony at the simple launching ceremony emphasised that stigma and discrimination still pose a challenge to mental health efforts, hence there is a need for more awareness.
“If people feel that they are being stigmatised, they won’t want to seek assistance; and if they’ll be discriminated against, they won’t access the services being offered. So, we need to destigmatise and ensure people don’t feel discrimination so that we can offer services to people who need them,” he stated.
While touching on some of the changes within the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act, Dr Anthony noted that as more attention is placed on mental health, better diagnoses are carried out along with treatment for persons with mental health conditions.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF Guyana and Suriname, Mr Irfan Akhtar, explained that the colour green is used to raise awareness and reduce mental health stigma by encouraging students to talk openly.
PAHO/WHO Representative Dr Luis Codina added that psychiatric hospitals around the world are closing since mental health issues are being addressed at the community level. The programme is being implemented collaboratively by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), and Desert Flower Guyana.