Fixing …mental health? 

Guyana is one of the toughest places on earth to grapple with “mental health”. First, most Guyanese don’t see it as a “health” issue. Tell somebody about their “mental health”, and they don’t get past the “mental” part – which in Guyana means you’re wacko!! “Who de arse tell you me mental?!!” is the outraged retort you’ll more likely than not get – followed by a whack behind your head!!
Our facility to deal with mental issues is the Berbice Mental Asylum – dubbed the “Berbice Mad House” when established in the 19th century. That the Mental Asylum was closely associated with the upsurge in prisons built in that era offers a clue as to the cause of much of the mental illnesses – most of the inmates in both institutions came from the sugar plantations and its draconian labour regimen!!
But in this millennium – starting in 2006, after a decade of debate and finger pointing – the Government’s been coming up with five-year plan after five-year plan to address the scourge. And scourge it is. A few years back, we were topping the charts for the entire world on suicide rates – 44.2 suicides per 100,000 people versus the global average of 16 per 100,000!! Imagine that!! And we didn’t even have to throw in those Jim Jones “Cool Aid” numbers, which went back to 1978; and in any case, the PNC Govt assured us it was an “American thing”.
Anyhow, the Government’s five-year plans have kicked in – there are more psychiatrists, psychologists, and other workers in the field. Mental health has been made part of the primary care agenda, and even the police have received sensitivity training in dealing with mental health patients. But it’s clear we’re still not seeing the results we want. The question your Eyewitness raises is whether Guyanese see it as a “health” issue after all the sweaty effort.
The goodly Min of Health just announced a refinement of the 2020-2025 plan – to “decentralise” the services. Seems that most of them were centralised in Georgetown. So what else is new?? Isn’t that how “health” issues were treated, starting with the Georgetown “Big” Hospital – also launched in the 19th century to treat the town people who really mattered, cause they were white and coloured?!! Well, better late than never; but now that the water’s being taken to the horse, so to speak, the challenge remains to get him to drink.
Your Eyewitness remembers when a former Health Minister went even further with this decentralisation. He’d gone into the communities where the suicide rates were highest and trained individuals to look out for signs of mental disequilibrium – and to then counsel the affected individuals.
“Gatekeepers” they were called. Whatever happened to them??

…the PNC
The folks’ wisdom, “Moon a run ‘till day ketch am”, pronounces on the inevitability of natural processes unfolding according to innate natural laws. Most of us transfer those processes into the workings of our own lives, and in the case of this aphorism, conclude that no matter how bleak and dismal things may look today, there’s an end to it all. “Day will ketch am” with the brightness of sunshine!! Well, after all the contortions – mathematical and otherwise, involving stained bedsheets and all! – which the PNC engaged in unsuccessfully after the 2020 elections, the chickens are coming home to roost.
They’d elected Aubrey Norton as leader for one reason – to “manners” the PPP and their supporters because of his street fighter reputation he’d earned back in the day. But he disappointed the kingmakers in the party when he confined his pugnacity to refusing to shake Pres Ali’s hands!! Now that Congress is coming up, the old guard’s getting their licks in.
Amna Ali says he’s “not fit to lead the PNC”!! Ouch!!

…Mad Maduro?
As predicted, upon Pres Ali’s request, the UNSC met to discuss Mad Maduro’s passing an “organic” law to annex our Essequibo – and they didn’t even slap him on his wrist.
Once again, they simply said Guyana and Venezuela must settle matters peacefully!!