The Sinoe County Health Team, with support from The Carter Center’s (TCC) Mental Health Beyond Facilities Project, has completed two weeks training for a newly formed Patient Support Group in various types of soap making, according to a TCC press release.
The training, which involved people living with mental illness and their caregivers, included skills development in soap making, effective handling of harmful materials, microfinance and opportunities for accessing microloans, and training in self-care and stress management.
“This training, supported by TCC, seeks to improve the economic status of persons with severe mental disorders and epilepsy,” Sidney Bowier, a social worker and the lead for Sinoe County’s Social Work Services said.
According to Bowier, the training is one component of many activities under a community-based mental health program entitled, “Mental Health Beyond Facilities” (MHBF), which has been going on in Sinoe County since 2012.
“The Patient Support Group (PSG) concept,” the release said, “was developed to bring together groups comprising caregivers and persons with mental illness to provide support to others, and undertake activities that promote income generation for them.”
“The PSG idea came from a three-country project that includes Uganda and Nepal,” added TCC staff Wilfred Gwaikolo.
According to Gwaikolo, in Uganda, TCC has been using patient support groups that include a livelihood component very successfully.
The PSG concept focuses on improving livelihoods of households of persons with mental illness and epilepsy by providing opportunities for micro-financing businesses and to participate in their community’s economic activities.
So far, two groups have been formed in two communities in Sinoe County.
In the Kabada Community, the PSG identified soap making as their choice of enterprise “because their community is near a concession area, and soap making is in demand and sells faster.”
The Kabada PSG will produce large quantities of soap and distribute them among group members for sale.
The soap making training will include the production of two types of soap, including a local Liberian ‘iron soap’ and liquid soap.
By the end of two week training, participants would have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge needed to produce quality soap.
The MHBF project is led by TCC Liberia Mental Health Program in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Sinoe County Health Team and the Liberia Center of Outcomes Research in Mental Health.
The project seeks to reduce the treatment gap between need and interventions, promote individual and family livelihood and reduce stigma, while enhancing effective psychosocial functioning of persons with severe mental disorders and epilepsy, and members of their family. It is being implemented at 10 clinics in six districts in Sinoe County.
Since February last year, over 150 persons with mental health problems and epilepsy have benefited from the project, according to the release.