Sep 01, 2010 News
By Sharmain Cornette
At an undisclosed location, the Ministry of Health is gearing to commence the operation of its national crisis hotline.
According to Assistant Coordinator within the Mental Health Department of the Ministry of Health, Mrs Lisa Prashad-Ramsaroop, the venture has a tentative launching date this month.
Once the programme commences, though, anonymity would immediately become crucial as according to Prashad-Ramsaroop, there are certain elements of security that must be considered. This, she said, will include the protection of those monitoring the hotlines as well as those seeking assistance.
The Ministry of Health has already retained persons who have been trained to man the hotline. The training, according to Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, was a collaborative effort between the Health Ministry, the Dalhousie University and the CHIMO Crisis Services from Vancouver.
The programme will focus primarily on vibrant mental health response. With the programme in motion, Dr. Ramsammy explained, the Ministry of Health will be in a better position to respond to various social determinants that affect health, particularly those that contribute to violence, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism and those conditions that result in suicide attempts.
This initiative, he added, is specifically in response to the public health scourge of suicide. Guyana averages about 180 suicide deaths per year and has developed a surveillance system intended to track all suicide deaths. Nonetheless, the tracking attempts are still considered relatively weak, since there are at least 500 suicide attempts on an annual basis. Consequently, the Ministry of Health is now requiring all hospitals to report any possible suicide attempt case to the Ministry within 24 hours after presentation at the hospital.Approximately 11 persons from the Ministry of Health and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) were trained as the core group of operators for the hotline service. The commencement this month will mark the start of a pilot phase of the programme, which will span the period September 2010 through June 2011, during which time the core group will man the hotline. During this phase, collaboration will be sought with the University of Guyana to have the Communication, Social Work and Health Sciences students, who are required to be attached to a community or voluntary service during their period of study, to function as volunteers as part of the completion of their programme requirements. The draft Policies and Procedures’ that will govern the crisis hotline have also been completed and will be finalised by experts from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, according to the Health Minister.
A manual that will govern the training for and operation of the hotline has also been drafted and finalised, as have application forms for potential volunteers.
The core group of operators for the hotline will work along with experts from the CHIMO Crisis Services in Vancouver even as the Ministry works with hotline service experts from Nova Scotia, Montreal and British Columbia.
The Ministry of Health has worked closely with the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph to establish a state-of-the-art telephone system for the service.
The system will operate on the same basis as the 911 and 912 service for the police and fire service.
And leading up to the official take-off of the programme, Ministry of Health is seeking the assistance of members of the public between the ages of 11 and 18 to design a suitable logo embracing the slogan “Where we care, support and connect.”
According to Prashad-Ramsaroop, the target group was strategically identified in a bid to sensitise the younger population about crisis issues. Entries must be submitted to the Health Ministry’s head office by September 30, and contain particulars such as name, age, address, telephone number, school and a description of the logo. However, even if a logo is not selected this month, the Assistant Coordinator noted that the programme will still be introduced to the public this month.
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