Cultural change needed to understand the importance of mental health
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Senior Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist from the United Kingdom (UK), Meera Baahu
Senior Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist from the United Kingdom (UK), Meera Baahu

– Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist says

CULTURAL change, promoting greater awareness and acceptance of mental health is necessary in promoting good mental health locally, according to Senior Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist from the United Kingdom (UK), Meera Baahu.

Baahu, who is an accredited Psychotherapist by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP), visited Guyana for a few days recently as part of work organised by UK-based Psychologist, Dr. Krish Nauth, to better equip some local medical professionals.

While speaking at a lecture focused on mental health, the psychotherapist opined that mental health in Guyana has not been considered as important as physical health.

“With physical health it is easier to detect and say that I have a flu, or I have this or that… but when it comes to mental health it’s like it’s invisible, like bleeding inside and very hard to see outside,” she explained.

This ‘invisibility’, she opined, is fuelled by the “social stigma” that is attached to mental health and mental health illnesses. Explaining this, she said that people in society would have given credence to physical health problems but chose to overlook those mental health problems which do manifest themselves in a myriad of ways.

To remedy this, Baahu posited: “There needs to be some kind of cultural change, or cultural awareness, and it has to come from people here.”

At this lecture too, Commissioner on the Rights of the Child Commission, Nicole Cole, highlighted the use of the arts to promote and foster better mental health. Cole shared that from her own experiences, the arts have been effective vis a vis mental health.

On this note, Baahu said that the arts are definitely one medium that would allow for recognition and promotion of mental health. However, she also opined that the local community itself must decide on what avenues work best to promote good mental health.

“From what I have learnt, I think the psychology has to come from the society and the community here,” she said, adding: “No matter how many people come from outside, even though that is really great for information, and you can learn, this is something you have to open your heart and open up to create that change for your community.”

Dr. Nauth, who gave the lecture at UG, shared with the gathering that mental health is also influenced by “environmental factors”, which include how the person experiences life in the areas they reside in. These factors also include whether the community a person lives in accepts or rejects mental health as an important component of health.

And as such, Baahu reminded, “These interventions themselves have to come from you since you are all intelligent enough to do what is good for your communities.”

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