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Scaling Up Care For Mental Health: MOH, Partners Conclude Regional Mental Health Workshop

(February 17, 2022, Monrovia, Liberia)—the Ministry of Health in collaboration with local and international partners has concluded a three-day long mental health workshop aimed at developing a theory of change that would provide a strategic directions to mental health and psychosocial integration into selected countries’ national emergency preparedness and response plans on the African continent.

The workshop, which started from February 15 to 17, 2022, was held in Monrovia under the theme “Strengthening Mental Health And Psychosocial Support Integration Into Emergency Preparedness And Response.”

Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah who officially kicked off the opening told participants that Mental, neurological and substance use disorders are highly prevalent and burdensome on the African continent as a result of large numbers of emergencies, including conflicts and outbreaks; such as Ebola, COVID-19 and other disasters, saying “All such emergencies have a huge impact on the mental health, causing widespread of distress and impact negatively on national development”.

The Liberian Health Minister was concerned about the permeating and unfortunate mental health emergency that causes suffering and migration which continues to impose threat on the African continent.

She said, those unfortunate situations are increasingly rare in the region of West Africa; of which Liberia is inclusive in experiencing emergency, and “we have seen the negative impact of war and other traumatic experiences on our people’s mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic, Ebola epidemic and many other outbreaks, including fewer and diseases mainly increase the mental health need of the people in Liberia.”

In supra, the MOH recognizes the need for action to reduce the burden, and to enhance the capacity of healthcare service providers to respond to this growing challenge. The National Mental Health Program is aimed at scaling up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders across the country.

“As a recognition of the importance of mental health, the MOH and partners have been working hard, to experience access to and improve the deliverables of mental health services.

“Hundreds of healthcare workers across the country were trained and equipped with skills to provide mental healthcare.” She remarked earlier.

However, the development of comprehensive description and illustration of how MHPS integration will translate into positive health outcomes in short, medium and long range to contribute to the overall goal of strengthening mental health system in Africa, especially in emergency response was highlighted and discussed among participants.

Shared lessons from COVID-19 and other emergency responses; and familiarizing the participants with MHPS minimum services package for effective emergency response were part of the three days learning sessions.  

Hon. Angie Tarr Nyankoon, Director of National Mental Health Program at the Ministry of Health shared with participants some gains Liberia has made in drafting mental health legislation that are expected to be in circulation for public consumption.

“The Liberian government has passed a mental health law that is printed into handbill and is ready for dissemination to educate the public on mental health issues and ways forward”, she noted.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mohammed Abdullah, Africa’s CDC Health of Division for Disease Control and Prevention, called for sustainability of such educative international engagement to ensure an integrated mental health emergency preparedness response on the African Continent.

“What’s next for us? How do we link it to a sustainable in order to ensure that we integrate it into an emergency preparedness response. What do we do concrete to move this forward in our countries.  The consortium is here to support, Africa CDC is here to support and this one areas where Africa CDC does very well to integrate what you are doing into a sustainable system within the country,” He averred.

Climaxing the workshop, Montserrado County Health Team’s head, Dr. Yatta Wapoe, speaking on behalf of government and the Ministry of Health, used the occasion to thank the organizers for selecting Liberia as host.

“We are happy to have this opportunity to collaborate with a coalition of mental health experts from the African Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), the Eastern African Health Community and the UK Health Rapid Response. We are also glad to be joined by representatives from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cameroon as well as the very hardworking mental health and psychosocial health support representative in Liberia and other countries. This workshop is an important step towards making mental health a priority and the essential part of the emergency response and the overall strengthening of mental health system in Africa.

The National Mental Health and Psychosocial pillar as part of the IMS has worked tirelessly in responding to various outbreaks. Moving forward, the government through the Ministry of Health commits the full support and integrate mental health and psychosocial support into the emergency preparedness and response.   

Successful scaling up is the joint responsibility of governments, health professionals, civil society, communities, and families, with support from the international community.

Signed: ________________________________

           Felecia Gbesioh

           Director of Communication, MOH   

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