Suicide is the leading cause of death among youths aged 15 to 19. This is according to Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, even as he recognized that mental health among young people is a major public health challenge. This is in light of his disclosure that half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14.

“When we see warning signs we need to take note. The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions mean that it will progress into something else by the time they are adults [and] they have a full-blown mental issue,” Dr. Adu Krow noted.

But according to Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, government will do more to address the issue of young people’s mental health, especially at the level of the schools. She said that during the first quarter of 2019 secondary school teachers will be trained to recognize mental health disorders. This will be carried out by the Ministry of Public Health’s Mental Health Unit.

“The unit is seeking to target secondary school in a more connected manner. The intent is to train teachers in the first quarter of 2019 to recognize mental behavioural disorders so that they will be better positioned to identify students who may have mental health issues,” said the Minister She anticipates that “In this way, they may be referred, and support would be provided by a core of health professionals that will include doctors trained in mental health, social workers and personnel from the mental health unit.”

Minister Lawrence also highlighted that mental health awareness activities and psychosocial support by mental health resource personnel will be ongoing in schools. This will be supported by the home and family life education programmes where the focus will be on educating students on the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness.

Both officials remarks were forthcoming as they delivered addresses at the inaugural mental health fair of the University of Guyana’s Faculty of Health Sciences in observance of World Mental Health Day [October 10].

This year’s observance is themed “Young people in mental health in a changing world.” Depression was highlighted as one of the leading mental disorders among individuals between the ages of 14 to 29 years.

There were also several health booths at the mental health fair raising awareness on the issue.


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