However, Guyana has a huge deficit to overcome when it comes to tackling the problem: mainly the lack of mainstream facilities and health experts.
The country’s own public health minister claimed the existing national psychiatric hospital is less than adequate, calling the facility unfit “for human consumption”. Guyana retains less than five full-time psychiatrists, less than 300 beds in the National Psychiatric Hospital, and no day treatment or community residential facility. Guyana’s lack of psychologists and psychiatrists is not only inadequate but it also shows neglect to mental health in society. This neglect is as a result, mirrored by Guyanese. Mental illness is misunderstood in the country, with symptoms often mistakenly attributed to witchcraft which is known locally as ‘obeah’.
Communities often ostracise sufferers, and on occasion have physically assaulted them, at times with the endorsement of religious leaders, who are highly respected figures. Guyana is a place where most people live in villages and rural areas, so those who people tend to reach out to are religious leaders. religious leaders always become first responders.
Taking into account Guyana’s special culture with religion, we have to take into consideration the way mental health symptoms can be interpreted certain ways by religious leaders.