Cost benefits through piggybacking would be immeasurable

Dear Editor,
Some years ago, the issue of piggybacking was raised in the local media for the first time as a very cost-effective way of providing multi-faceted services and training to citizens. While that call fell on deaf ears of successive governments, it was refreshing to notice that, recently, the Human Services Ministry did reflect piggybacking in its Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) outreach at Tuschen Primary School.
As reported in the media, “Representatives of various units of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, including the Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Unit, the Gender Affairs Bureau, the Support and Heal Network (SAHN), the Guyana Women’s Leadership Institute (GWLI), the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), and the Probation and Social Services Department, also took part in the outreach to offer counselling, guidance and other support services.” This in addition to “organisations such as Modern Optical Services and the Dr. Cheddi Jagan Dental Centre partnering with the Ministry to grant access to free eye testing, dental care (inclusive of tooth extraction and cleaning), as well as blood and sugar testing.”
Piggybacking is the concept of adding on modules to any training or outreach activity to make it as comprehensive as possible. Thus when the media reported in January that the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) “will soon commence training programmes to educate farmers across the country on how to properly administer pesticides and other agro-chemicals”, a letter was emailed to Trecia David, the PTCCB Registrar, suggesting that a module on suicide prevention relating to poisoning be added to the training, given that ingestion of poison is the means by which most suicides happen or are attempted.
To date, not even the courtesy acknowledgement of that letter was received.
Piggybacking can ensure that issues that need urgent attention can be so addressed by adding relevant modules to any other training. For example, when the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) offers training, modules on suicide and abuse prevention, coping skills, self-esteem, self-confidence and resilience can be included, especially given that the 15-to-25 age group has the highest suicide rate in Guyana, and that teenage pregnancy and relationships’ abuse are also significant problems in that age group.
Similarly, added-on modules on related mental health issues can be part of any training for teachers, medical personnel, Police, the general working population, and so on. Police certainly do need sensitivity training relating to abuse and suicide prevention and emphatic communication. Teachers need a range of mental health training to address their psycho-social needs and help them be better able to help their students with issues such as abuse and suicide prevention, resilience, self-esteem, self-confidence, coping skills and self-harm.
Medical personnel, especially at the level of receiving and diagnosing patients, need mental health first-aid so that patients can also be screened for mental health issues. Workplaces can be urged to include mental health modules related to workplace safety, including suicide and abuse prevention, resilience and coping skills, and business owners and management certainly can do with empathic training.
The cost benefits of addressing mental health through piggybacking would be immeasurable, as a tremendous body of research has indicated. And, with piggybacking, so much can be done for so little in ensuring that Guyanese are better prepared, both physically and mentally, to deal with life’s challenges, especially given that abuse and suicide rates are so high and more than a quarter of the population (probably twice that amount, because of mental health crisis created by the pandemic) suffer from one or more mental health illnesses. As well, in almost every instance, those trained can be supported to turnkey their training to others, so that the skill sets and requisite info are passed on far and wide.

Annan Boodram
The Caribbean Voice