Thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Jay and Sylvia Sobhraj Foundation, Guyana University’s Turkeyen campus will soon have a state-of-the-art behavioural study, research and multi-purpose Centre.
The Centre will offer a master’s program in clinical psychology; to aid in the battle the high rate of mental health challenges and the shortage of mental health professionals. This program is being established to train Guyanese clinicians and researchers who will evaluate and implement culturally appropriate, evidence-based mental health treatment interventions.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2017), Guyana is the country with the highest suicide mortality rate in the Americas region at a rate of 29.0 per 100,000.
Of Guyana’s 750,000 population (approximately), around 75,000 to 112,500 persons in Guyana could meet criteria for a mental illness that requires some level of mental health treatment and care (in accordince with population prevalence estimates).
Moreover, 22,500 to 37,000 persons could meet criteria for a severe and persistent mental illness requiring acute and long-term mental health treatment.
It is estimated that depression is the fifth greatest contributor to disease burden in Guyana and suicide is estimated as the third leading cause of death among those 15-44 years old, accounting for 13% of all deaths (PAHO, 2006).
A recent needs assessment study, involving focus groups with students and lecturers at the University of Guyana, showed that there are significant mental health needs that exists in Guyana and a shortage of mental health professionals and services in Guyana.
Program heads overwhelmingly agreed that the priority areas for program studies & intervention include the effects of interpersonal violence (child abuse, domestic violence), including posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, alcohol and other substance addiction.
The need for a Development of a Master’s in Clinical Psychology Training Program at the University of Guyana is evident, and Jay Sobhraj, a Guyanese-born United States based philanthropist, is ferociously dedicated to helping Guyana solve this problem and aide in the development of his homeland.
The Jay and Sylvia Sobhraj Centre for Behavioral Studies and Research Centre will provide a location for the new psychology program which the University will start in March 2018.
The facility will house a bookstore, food court, model counseling centre, student gym and prayer rooms. It will also have an extended Medex Station and cater to various programs including psychology, social work, criminology and psychiatry.
“For too long, critical mental health services have been lacking in Guyana and, as a result, people have suffered,” said Sobhraj, a principal in the Queens, N.Y.-based Zara Realty and one of his native Guyana’s most prominent philanthropists. “This vital program will train the next generation of psychologists to help address mental health in the country and provide good, prestigious jobs to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of our young people. We will always cherish our roots,” Sobhraj added.
According to Sobhraj, his education was made possible through grants, and he is grateful that he is now in a position to give back to his homeland.
There will be multiple therapy rooms, which will be used to treat mentally ill patients, as well as educate persons in the clinical psychology program.
The Jay and Sylvia Sobhraj Centre for Behavioral Studies and Research Centre will complement the mental health department which was established by the Ministry of Public Health. The department is currently training Mental Health Practitioners to work with mentally challenged persons. Over 100 such practitioners have been trained to date.
“Clinical psychology training has a significant role to play in improving the mental health and well- being of the Guyanese population, and we are proud to lead the charge in solving these mental health problems in Guyana,” said Nardeo Singh of the Sobhraj Foundation.