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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – #MentalIllness And #Suicide

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By Akola Thompson

#Mentalillness, despite the marginal progress we have made, continues to be a persistently troublesome issue within Guyana. It has been one of the largest contributors toward Guyana’s high #suicide rate. As the #COVID-19 virus continues to spread and mutate, the strain brought on by the #pandemic has exacerbated the #mentalhealthissues of our population. While civil society and government have implemented various initiatives focusing on #mentalhealth, these efforts largely remain inaccessible and often insufficient for many. 

Lack of relevant resources, particularly in outlying communities still remains one of the largest barriers in addressing #mentalillness and #suicide. Often, persons living with #mentalillnesses are encouraged to seek support, but the systems we have in place tend to fall extremely short of what is needed by those who require aid. The Guyana Public Hospital Corporation has for a while been providing #mentalhealthsupport through the unit dedicated to that. The effort is undoubtedly good and has the potential to help a lot of persons, particularly those that do not have access to private services, but as is the case with most public institutions, it is heavily underfunded and not in line with the standards of treatment that are required to promote healthy #mentalcare.

While there have been some changes in the political contributions towards the sector over the years, these still remain very few and far between. Our cultural belief towards #mentalillness directly shapes the political contributions towards #mentalhealthcare. Unfortunately, many still operate with a lack of knowledge on #mentalillness, #suicide and the factors that contribute towards them. This has led to a lack of a focused approach, leaving a deficit within the psychiatric field and relevant awareness and support mechanisms.

There are very few psychiatrists that can successfully aid in bringing about positive #mentalhealth in #patients. The service sector needs to be built upon but this is just one of the many things that are needed to really prioritize #mentalhealthcare in Guyana. For instance, while there have been a growing number of psychologists within Guyana, many of these persons enter the field without critically analyzing and addressing the harmful beliefs that they might possess regarding gender, race, sexuality and poverty and how these can all intersect with #mentalillness. So, often when persons seek private psychological help and they do not fit into the psychologists’ ideal, they can go away from sessions feeling even more mentally fatigued and hopeless.

Despite many of the best intentions, the majority of people still operate based on the cultural environment that shaped their responses to #mentalillness and #suicide. This, of course, impacts the amount of support that those suffering are able to get. A standard way that #mentalillness has been addressed over the years is through active suppression of it and harmful coping strategies such as alcoholism. Instead of admitting that they or loved ones are suffering from #mentalillness, many rather go the route of ignoring it completely and labeling it as merely another trial that everyone goes through. Given our reliance on religion and spirituality, there is also the belief that those who suffer from #mentalillnesses are evil, have been tainted by witchcraft or that the illness can be prayed out of them. These beliefs are particularly harmful because they aid in the continued stigmatization of #mentalillness while depriving persons of the #mentalhealthsupport that they need.

There has also been the perception that #mentalillness and #suicide in Guyana are mainly things that occurs amongst Indo-Guyanese given the prevalence of it within the community. The cultural upbringing and family dynamics often found in Indian communities, particularly rural ones are markedly different from that of Afro-Guyanese. While rural Indo-Guyanese are often coddled by their families, Afro-Guyanese are often raised to be resilient in the face of constant trauma. This leads to a very different way of addressing #mentalhealthissues that can often manifest in internal and external violence against both themselves and others. There are also the dynamics of gender to consider as it relates to the amount of attempted and completed suicides. While more #women attempt #suicide than men, men are far more likely to be successful in going through with #suicide than #women are. This partly has to do with gender stereotypes and expectations of men being aggressive, even against themselves, resulting in them being more effective at #suicide attempts. Men also often lack a sense of community that enables the sharing of the issues that they face and lack relevant support services to guide them towards a healthier state of mind.

It is important to note that as much as #mentalillness is a contributor to #suicide, this is too often pegged as being the only factor to consider. This approach often leaves out of the conversation, the social and economic factors that often bring about and perpetuate #mentalillness. It is often the inability to cope with things such as abuse, poverty and homophobia that result in many having #suicidalideations and ultimately following through with them. Our approaches to #mentalhealthcare needs to explore not only #mentalillnesses, but also the multiple factors that contribute towards it and make it difficult to cope with.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

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