Conversations on Mental Health 

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United Kingdom (UK) Prince Harry is in the news again. This time for partnering with United States (U.S) talk show host icon Oprah Winfrey to discuss mental health (mental illness).

This show will be broadcast on Apple TV+ as a documentary series, and aims to shed light on the issue from leading world figures.  The “Me You Can’t See” series should be released on Friday. This would be a show, giving the star power of Oprah and Harry, that would be worthy of watching.

In the released trailer about the series Oprah spoke about dealing with mental health, and where people like her are unashamed in shining light on their experiences and struggles, it could help other sufferers of this illness cope. Prince Harry has not been shy speaking to this issue and his personal struggle from childhood.

He has done so for years. Back in the UK, himself and brother, Prince William, had established a mental health foundation, “Heads Together.”

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This week’s publication of Village Voice, “Guyanese Women in Diaspora” column featured Letitia Michelle Wright, who co-starred as Shuri in the Black Panther movie, sharing her experience with mental health.

Her diagnosis is Depression. According to her whilst she is still a “work in progress,” she discovered that “the only thing that pulled me out of it was God, my belief, my faith and my family, and an email from Bafta [British Academy of Film and Television Arts] asking me to become part of the Bafta Breakthrough Brits.”

The United Nations reports that Persons with mental and psychosocial disabilities represent a significant proportion of the world’s population. Millions of people worldwide have mental health conditions and an estimated one in four people globally will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.”

Guyana has a high suicide rate, and is ranked amongst the leading nations with said mental illness. Some work is being done by the government and non-governmental organisations in shedding light on this emotional challenge and providing support. Likewise, there exists the need to do similar work in other spheres of mental health.

Many are walking around feeling lonely and isolated and are finding it difficult to cope. The pandemic has not made it easier for long sufferers and some, who never experienced mental health issues before, are now finding their mental status affected. Former U.S first lady Michelle Obama spoke out about developing what she called “low-grade depression” in this pandemic and shared what she is doing to cope.

People deal with various levels/stages of mental health. Some are ill to the point where they are institutionalised to the spectrum of those who are highly functional with treatment. The best way to cope with mental health is to acknowledge when one is finding it difficult to cope with daily stressors in life, when one’s psychosocial well-being is affected, to speak out and seek help, including medical. Ours is a society that is yet to see mental health as part of human experiences and that those struggling with the illness need the support of loved ones and medical intervention.

Guyana has to move beyond stigmatising the illness. The Government has to lead by doing more for this disease. Where it has become tradition to view these persons as mad, to be shunned, laughed at, shamed or isolated from those they care about, there needs to be a rethinking.

This is why the series by Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry will be so good in starting a national constructive conversation in Guyana about the disease in its entirety and how it should be dealt with.

Guyana needs to have its own conversation from the voice of those who are dealing with mental health. Like Princes Harry and William who have done this for the UK; Oprah Winfrey and others for the U.S; and Letitia Wright for Guyana though resident in London, Guyana needs influential persons resident in Guyana to come forward and join the global conversation.



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