In observance of the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17 and commemorating Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted a Lunch Talk on Mental Health and Well Being for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Guyanese with discussions being led by Dr. Janice Jackson, Psychologist and retired University of Guyana lecturer; Leroy Adolphus, Policy and Advocacy Officer at the National Coordinating Coalition Inc (NCC); and Dr. Melissa Varswyk, Principal of Georgetown American University and Vice-Chair of Blue CAPS. The discussions were moderated by Ulelli Verbeke, Chairperson of SASOD's Board of Directors.
Guyana needs more mental health professionals
Given the scarcity of mental health professionals in Guyana which impedes access to services for LGBT people, Dr Melissa Varswyk made a call for vulnerable communities such as the LGBT Guyanese to form groups in civil society for policy and advocacy and community support like SASOD which she said can very influential in offering support for persons suffering with mental health conditions. This she said will not be easy initially but support mechanisms are essential for persons who are struggling. Dr. Varswyk expressed that there is a significant lack of trained mental health professionals in Guyana and on the policy side of things Guyana needs to focus heavily on investing in more skilled professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists. According to the medical professional, a lot of students show interest in mental health and psychiatric specializations but Guyana does not have the human resources and necessary specialized training to fulfill the needs for these fields of study.