mental health fair

PEACE CORPS COUNTDOWN: 17 months left of service



New Amsterdam is home to the only psychiatric hospital in the country, which is currently treating around 200 patients. In commemoration of World Mental Health Day (Oct 10th, 2017), the National Psychiatric Hospital (NPH) and the Public Health Office of Region 6 held events all throughout the week.

Guyana has one of the highest suicide rates per square mile in the world. I’ve learned that mental health continues to be a scary and difficult topic to discuss, leaving many people isolated and ashamed of seeking help. This negative stigma exists in all parts of the world, but in Guyana specifically, mental health is viewed as a hopeless case in most communities.

That is why the NPH, other PCVs near and far, and I worked together to organize a mental health fair in New Amsterdam during Mental Health Week. Together we created an interactive mental health booth where community member could learn about coping mechanisms, self-care, and the aspects of healthy interpersonal relationships.

Our goal was to engage people in an activity that gave us an opportunity to strike up a conversation about mental health and break down negative stigmas. Like other illnesses and issues, mental health deserves positive attention too. When I began planning the health fair, I encourage the team to be as creative and colorful as possible to help mental health become approachable.

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For coping mechanisms, PCV Jami (Cumberland, Region 6) and Yinka (Bathe, Region 5) focused on promoting stress management. They had set up a space where people could make their own stress ball and coping fortune teller to help them during hard times. These activities fostered great conversation about stress and how there are healthy ways we can deal with it.

For self-care, PCV Leah (Talorgie, Region 6) had created a “healthy snack pairing” game where if they participated they could have a sample of some whole wheat pumpkin muffin or some yummy bean dip. PCV Becca (New Amsterdam, Region 6) helped prepare the dip and created a lovely “Self-Love Calendar” that people could take home to practice self-love.

For healthy interpersonal relationships, PCV Sarah (New Amsterdam, Region 6) and Stephanie (Suddie, Region 2) asked community members passing by what a healthy relationship meant to them and left open a blank poster for them to write down their thoughts. This activity was a great conversation starter and allowed people to share a little part of their hearts with us.

And special shoutout to PCV Connor who travelled all the way from Region 9 (12+ hour bus ride) to help us execute the whole thing!

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The primary school students from St. Therese’s and All Saints even contributed to the cause by creating a banner during my HFLE session on mental health that says “We Support Mental Health: A Happy and Healthy Future is in Our Hands.

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In my lesson, I had each student write one way they could support their mental health (hand) and one way they could support a friend in need (heart). The purpose of creating the banner was to show my students that they weren’t alone if they were struggling with something. I wanted to give them a visual of what a supportive community looks like. Over 90 students participated in this project and it was beautiful! The banner was later displayed at the Mental Health Fair for other to see.
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I loved the process of putting this event together and getting the opportunity to connect people to the betterment of their health. The health fair was later broadcasted on the local news where Dr. K (the Doctor in Charge at NPH) and I had the chance to talk about our initiative. I was confused when little cameras were suddenly pointed at my face and they handed me a mic. Gosh I’m not going to lie, it was soooooo weird to see myself on TV!!!! When I watched it later that night, I thought to myself “Dear God, woman! BREATHE! Stop talking so fast!”
Needless to say, it was the coolest experience I’ve had in my service so far and I hope to do something like this again.

 

Love always,
Mel

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