Region 10 buckles down on mental health
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A nurse and Social Worker, Laurette Grey Smith addressing parents and teachers of the Pine Street Nursery as part of the MHU anti-bullying campaign
A nurse and Social Worker, Laurette Grey Smith addressing parents and teachers of the Pine Street Nursery as part of the MHU anti-bullying campaign

— in light of increase in cases

The Linden Hospital Complex (LHC), Mental Health Unit (MHU), has recorded a significant increase in patients in need of care and treatment and has initiated systems to provide effective care to these patients.

For 2018, the MHU has recorded over 900 patients who were treated at the facility. In January 2019, 132 patients were treated and 107, in March. A significant number of youths are among these patients.

Relaying on this information was Cuban psychiatrist attached to the LHC, Dr Sandra Glasgow, who is the supervising officer at the MHU. As a result of this significant increase, the clinic days were increased from once a month, to five days a week. The MHU was also boosted with additional staff and now has a multidisciplinary team including a psychiatrist, social worker and trained nurses. Benefiting from the clinic are not only patients who reside in Linden but those from other far-flung communities in Region 10, such as Ituni and Kwakwani, as well as Georgetown.

From Monday to Thursday, the team would attend to out-patients at the unit, on Fridays the team would perform home visits, to meet the needs of those patients who are home-bound or their circumstances do not allow them to visit the hospital.

“We realised that some patients do not have easy access to come here or because they have some financial difficulties or they don’t have family … to take them to the hospital, so what we do with this home visit, is to find out their actual mental state and sometimes we have medication for these patients as well,” Dr Glasgow noted. The home visits not only target patients but relatives caring for them as well. “We do counselling as well for relatives because the patient care is important in the process as well, not the patient alone, the entire environment,” Dr Glasgow posited.

The MHU is currently being upgraded and patients will enjoy a more comfortable, spacious and confidential environment, where they can be treated and attended to effectively. Dr Glasgow noted that the aim is not only to treat these patients, but to improve their mental health state, so they can return to society as healed persons and their situation would not regress into a permanent disability.

Many of the patients, she noted, have been affected by circumstantial depression or other forms of mental sicknesses that are curable, if tackled early.

Psychiatrist attached to LHC, Dr Sandra Glasgow

Many youths are also targeted because of abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol. Many of these have repeatedly attempted suicide. It was noted by a member of the team that there are different stages of depression, such as clinical depression and severe depression and relatives should become aware of the signs and allow the individual to become available for evaluation, diagnoses and treatment.

In is in this regard that the MHU team, since January, has commenced school visits to sensitise youths on depression, drug and alcohol abuse and the signs and symptoms of depression. The New Silver City Secondary School has already been targeted. An anti-bullying campaign has also commenced at the nursery level where teachers and parents are engaged on the issues that affect the child’s mental health. They are sensitised on the ways of identifying the negative effects of children who are bullied, abused and depressed. They are also taught how to teach their children not to bully and to support children who are mentally disabled.

Dr Glasgow said the campaign has garnered positive responses and each day, more persons are expressing interest in the work of the MHU. She said the unit desires to collaborate with the Ministry of Education to have a more organised and permanent approach to targeting schools in the area of mental health. One suggestion on the agenda is the establishment of a support group of teachers to identify the first phase of mental health issues in their students.

Since the establishment of the Mental Health Unit, the increase in clinic days and the boost to its staffing, Social Worker Laurette Grey- Smith noted that there is a decrease in repeated cases of suicide attempts.

“Most of the persons tend to overcome their situation and be empowered after the sessions and they work on the action plan to help them to deal with the situation and in that light we do not see repeated cases,” she said.

Smith’s role is to intervene in the social aspect regarding the patient and to refer to the psychiatrist, when necessary. She looks into whether the basic needs of the patients are met, such as a stable home environment and relative care.

The MHU was established at LHC in 2016, when Dr. Glasgow, willingly took a transfer to the mining town to serve the patients who were only receiving monthly attention from a team of visiting doctors from Georgetown.

When asked why she chose this specialty, Dr. Glasgow, during a previous interview related that that she felt a connection with persons suffering from mental health, especially those experiencing discrimination.

“Since when I was a student, I felt some kind of rare connection with them because these kinds of people they need someone to care for them because for the most part many persons don’t want to deal with them, even family, so I felt this field was good for me, to help the patients,” she said.

After hearing of the need for psychiatrist in Guyana, she selflessly left her home and family in Cuba, to come to Guyana, then later to Linden. She said she will be in the mining town for as long as she is needed.

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