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By Sharmain Grainger“Regardless of how physically healthy you are, if you are not mentally healthy it simply doesn’t count.”Executive Director of GBCHA, Ms. Suzanne FrenchThis profound statement was recently vocalized by Executive Director of the Guyana Business Coalition on Health Awareness (GBCHA), Ms. Suzanne French. And it was to address issues such as mental health, among others, that affect people in our society that the GBCHA, a not for profit organisation, redefined its focus in 2012.French, during a recent conversation with me,http://www.cheapcustomjerseys.us.com/Soccer-Country/Custom-Mexico/, considered that many of the persons who would have opted to commit suicide did not display any evidence of physical illness. It was only after they would’ve committed the act of taking their own lives that others, sometimes even close family members and friends, realized that they were mentally unhealthy.“The people we read about who jumped off of the Kaieteur Falls and things like that they appeared physically fine,Russell Westbrook UCLA Jersey, but if you are not sound then being physically healthy is in vain,” French theorised.As such, she noted that GBCHA has been seeking to throw its support behind helping to tackle mental health.  French is convinced that her organization is especially poised to lend immense support towards Guyana’s suicide prevention efforts. This is in spite of the fact that there are numerous other organizations that have been delving into the suicide prevention arena.But French explained that since GBCHA already has been collaborating closely with the employees of many organizations (its membership) some of whom have been trained as peer counsellors, the message of suicide prevention can be channelled through this avenue.“We are the only association of business entities which focuses specifically on health. In terms of promoting good corporate and social responsibility, we can say that GBCHA members are exemplary in doing that,” French boasted.And since mental health has become for the main focuses of the public health sector, GBCHA has decided to incorporate this as one of its areas of focus as well.“This is one of the areas that we are going to be paying specific attention to this year. We will be training counsellors instead of just peer educators. People might just given a flyer, a brochure or a talk…but we will be looking more at helping people to see there are options,Jordan Zimmermann Tigers Jersey,” French disclosed. She pointed out that “the issue really is not suicide; suicide is the end result, that is what we see, but the issue that must be addressed is helping people to cope with the things they face and those are the things that we are going to be focusing on a lot this year.”It is the expectation of GBCHA to train counsellors who will be able to work with mentally troubled individuals, some of whom are in the workforce. And it is expected that these persons could be educated about the signs of depression and other mental conditions that may manifest among their family members, friends or others within their communities.Some participants of a peer educator training programme.“We can only give people advice, but the counsellors will work with individuals to help them make wise choices. They will also make referrals to the relevant agencies if they recognize that deeper intervention is needed,” French added.One of her observations is that “people aren’t talking to the right people about things that affect them. We see people talking a lot on Facebook…people are voicing a lot of opinions about others, but when people right next to them have issues they don’t have the answers. So we are trying to work with employees who have the interest and skill set so that they can notice certain behaviours.”The aim, according to French, is to be proactive in promoting “mental healthiness” in society.  She therefore underscored that the more people GBCHA, with the support of its members, invest in training, the more people will be made aware of their mental health state, and by extension, be in a position to help bring about a needed change. This is important, she added, “because people can’t change their behaviour or help in this regard if they themselves don’t know what changes need to happen.”GBCHA will select persons in the workplace for training based on their impact, reach and competence, according to French. This therefore means that an assessment will be conducted of employees, some of whom have already been trained as peer educators.“We will be looking to train people like human resource and personnel managers, other supervisors and people of influence who might already be dealing with people faced with issues all the time.  People might be unproductive in their workplace, but it may not be because they are lazy, it could be that people have real deep issues.”Currently GBCHA has over 25 privately-operated organisations and five semi-autonomous agencies, some with a presence in multiple administrative regions.  All of the member organizations have trained peer educators and a training session to advance GBCHA’s plans for this year is slated to be undertaken this week, while a trainer of trainers’ session has been scheduled for April. That session will attract support from the Pan American Health Organisation, according to French.GBCHA (formerly Guyana Business Coalition of HIV and AIDS) was established in 2008, but French has been sitting at its helm as Executive Director since June 2010.Its focus at first was to give technical support to the business community and mobilise resources from the private sector to help the national HIV response. In fulfilling its mandate, the not-for-profit organization was able to forge strategic partnerships with the Ministries of Human Services (now Ministry of Social Protection) and Health (now Public Health), particularly through its HIV fighting arm – the National AIDS Programme Secretariat.“Primarily our work was to go into the business community and raise awareness with regards to HIV and AIDS. And much of our work focused on prevention,” French said. This, moreover, translated to a lot of work being directed to reducing HIV stigma and discrimination.“A lot of persons became more comfortable being tested for HIV; they were even becoming more comfortable talking about HIV…so there was a lot of awareness we were doing,Cleveland Indians Jerseys,” she recalled.She however disclosed that while USAID was its financier in the inception, by 2012 funding started to dwindle, thus forcing GBCHA to rethink it modus operandi.After extensive discussions with its membership, the GBCHA Board took the decision to rely on fundraisers and support from its membership to continue its work. But according to French, the decision based on the advice of its membership was not to merely continue its HIV work, but to expand the GBCHA mandate to raise awareness about how other health issues could be prevented.“Our work now has been focused on education and prevention, so we have been promoting behavioural changes to encourage healthy lifestyles. This means preventing illnesses and conditions…things you can work on by having information now and altering your lifestyle.There are people living with certain conditions such as cancer, depression, but what we found was that there was a need for human resources to lend support to bring about awareness…there is a gap, the Social and Health sectors can only do so much,http://www.theworldsoccersshop.com/Club-America-Aguilas-Osmar-Mares-Jersey.html, and we are helping to fill the gap,” French asserted.GBCHA has also been lending support to the fight against domestic violence through its awareness efforts.While it operations include outreaches, GBCHA also carries out its services, including free HIV counselling and testing, at its 108 Orange Walk, Bourda, Georgetown Secretariat. And, according to French, over 400 people visit the Secretariat, monthly, to access the services offered there.GBCHA has also been tasked with implementing a project for the Ministry of Public Health which requires that it functions as a sub-recipient for the Global Fund HIV Grant. GBCHA moreover monitors five other non-governmental organizations that are implementing HIV programmes. These include Merundoi, Youth Challenge Guyana, G-Plus and FACT Group.As GBCHA advances its health intervention measures, French disclosed that “we are still discussing what other health-related services would be feasible for us to offer.”And she is confident that the entity will continue to evolve in the years to come with a keen focus on helping to realize a healthier Guyana.“A healthier Guyana is our number one aim, but our goal is actually to create compassionate leadership in the workplace and communities; that remains our vision. We believe that businesses can take the lead in what happens in health, because it is the key to the development of our country.”The day-to-day operation of GBCHA is facilitated by a five-member staff, including a Peace Corps Volunteer,Troy Brouwer Jersey, and governed by a nine-member Board of Directors drawn from the business sector. Its current Chairperson is Ms. Donna Roberts-Benjamin of John Fernandes Limited.