Women’s Refuge Home remains inactive as state avoids facilitator

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Mental health treatment in Guyana is practiced by lay people and it is very dangerous, according to Ingrid Goodman, who has worked in this field in various countries.

Goodman continues to accuse the government of not hiring her, even though she has a lot to offer, including a women’s safe house to rehabilitate mothers accused of abusing their children. “My observation has been that the modus operandi of the new administration is that they have the solution to all problems, and they pretend to talk about partnership,” Goodman told The Sunday Stabroek in an interview.

She’s had a few head shots with people in high office, including Director of the Child Protection and Protection Agency (CC&PA) Ann Greene and former Minister of Social Services Volda Lawrence. Last year, she revealed that a mental assessment conducted on staff at three state-run daycares – the Mahaica Children’s Home, Sophia Care Center and the Drop-In Center – found troubling issues, including the failure of more than half of caregiver children to define the term abuse and the use of lashes as the primary form of punishment.

she accused Minister Lawrence and Greene for showing disinterest in her findings, while incompetence persisted in the care of children placed in institutions. They had both denied this accusation.

Ingrid Goodman

In a lengthy interview with the Sunday Stabroek, Goodman pointed out that mental health is like information technology or chemistry, it’s a discipline. “People go to university for many years to train, they don’t get it in three-day workshops; these workshops are intended for people who have already been trained, ”she said.

According to Goodman, efforts are being made to remedy the situation through a partnership with York University to train social workers, but she warned those interns would not be ready for ten years.

Goodman, who returned to Guyana eight years ago after living in several countries, holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration, a master’s degree in social work and community organization, and a degree in studies. graduate in behavioral analysis. She has also described herself as a social entrepreneur, involved in marketing social and intervention programs.

The woman, who said since her return has been trying to represent the poor and the oppressed, believes she faces discrimination from some leaders.

She gave the example of a contract with PAHO in November 2016, and before the mission began it was withdrawn by the Ministry of Public Health without any explanation. “My experience is serving the poor, who often have to go to the state because of poverty,” Goodman said before adding that whenever she represents clients they are often punished and for some the services that were offered are withdrawn. “I was warned and asked why I was going to see the media and not collaborate,” said Goodman, who wrote several letters highlighting various issues. “And when they do that, it is the poor and the oppressed who are punished more,” she added, before revealing that the Guyanese police force has been more cooperative than the government.

Meanwhile, speaking about the training she conducted in all three homes at Greene’s request, Goodman said she had run two rounds of trainings and Greene called her back in 2014 to host a third session of training because, according to her, the staff was not getting it and there was no improvement.

“… I asked for permission to do something different, to allow myself to evaluate them, individually and as a group,” she said. This assessment found that participants’ basic reading and comprehension skills were lacking. She said 94% said they understood CC&PA policy on discipline.

However, it was found that 66% of those surveyed were “unable to define abuse”. It also found that 59.1% of those surveyed had only primary level education, while 34.2% had secondary level education. The 5.5% who had completed higher education were all based at Mahaica Institution.

After the assessment, Goodman said, there was an outage, which became visible when the new administration took office.

“We are dealing with a … poorly functioning workforce,” Goodman said, adding that when she presented the results, it was “the beginning of the end.” This issue was raised with Greene by this newspaper when Goodman first raised it publicly and she denied his claims.

She had said that Goodman had indeed presented the information “in a presentation format and that she had to give the final copy”. She had also said that she wasn’t sure it had ever been done. “We looked at the information and in fact it informed us and helped us,” she added.

Goodman said there had been no progress on the issue.

Under the new administration, she was awarded a contract in 2016 by Minister Lawrence at the Palms and she conducted an assessment and submitted a report. She no longer got engaged, but later saw a newspaper article, which stated that the recommendations she submitted were being implemented by the ministry.

“Accepted standard”

For Goodman, one of the difficulties upon her return was understanding the culture and she found a lot of things disturbing.

“Child sexual abuse is a culturally accepted norm in Guyana,” Goodman accused, adding that she believes change agents need to ask the question “How do we change cultural norms? She thinks the root is the economy because there is an addiction syndrome, where women pass from generation to generation depending on men.

“There is also a cultural norm of abandonment, there is the abandonment of children and the elderly and it is a cultural norm,” she said.

Moreover, she said, Guyanese do not know their rights and she pointed out that in other countries no matter how poor people are, they know their rights. “… This is not the case in Guyana. Even educated people don’t know their rights and if people don’t know their rights, it is easier for governments to oppress them further, ”she added.

There is a need, Goodman said, for social programs to be recognized as an entrepreneurial spirit, but rather the state operates as if they are the sole agents of social programs, which they buy from outsiders and often do not. are not applicable to Guyanese society.

Goodman revealed that she designed a mental health program, which she taught at the Institute for Distance and Continuing Education from 2011 to 2013, and which aimed to prepare the workforce to identify the early signs of mental disorders.

A similar program was put in place at Critchlow Labor College in 2014, but following the prorogation of the National Assembly in the same year, it derailed. She believes she is well grounded with the people in the communities, but said that while people call for services and the screenings are over, when they hear they have to pay, clients do not come back. .

Refuge center

Since returning, Goodman has opened a shelter center in Melanie, on the east coast of Demerara, where she offers a psychosocial treatment program for women who have mental health issues, abuse their children and have themselves been abused in their childhood.

It was launched in 2014 and it was expected that it would have worked in collaboration with the state, since the state has access to the authors.

The center has ten beds available and is marketed as an emergency crisis center that supports people with symptoms of psychotic and disturbed behavior leading to mental disorders.

But the beds remain empty because those who need the service cannot pay for it and the state seems the least interested, according to Goodman. Only two women have taken up residence in the center since it opened.

“People who need the service cannot afford it,” she noted, revealing that the treatment plan costs $ 87,000 for board, food, assessment and intervention.

The center also offers counseling sessions, which cost $ 5,000 for each hour. It is made up of four people.

“People would come for two, three weeks, once a week, and then they would stop because of the payment,” Goodman said, adding that people in crisis need to be stabilized first and have two or three sessions. per week before the sessions. are reduced to once a week.

The center does volunteer work and Goodman said in these cases people do not miss the sessions and that also involves making home visits and visiting schools of the children affected. Goodman and his team also go to the communities and run self-esteem sessions, which are free for ten weeks, and they found people showing up to the sessions. In 2016 alone, some nine East Coast communities were covered.

“People don’t appreciate therapy… they would love to have it if they didn’t have to pay. But it is not a service to which they attach a monetary value. When they have to act to correct a behavior and take ownership, they tend to move away from the treatment. It is more painful to correct it and becomes easier to live with, ”explained Goodman.

The refuge center can be reached at 273-5391.


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