Mental Health Group Donates ‘Treatment Guide’ to Health Ministry

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The Project Director of the Mental Health Leadership Advocacy Program (mhLAP) in English-speaking West Africa based in Nigeria, has donated 500 copies of a mental health treatment guide to authorities of the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Donating a copy of the Mental Health Gap Action Program (mhGAP) booklet to the Ministry through Dr. Samson K. Arzoaquoi, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, Professor Oye Gureje said the material is a clinical support tool that the World Health Organization (WHO) developed to be used by non-mental health specialists.

Prof. Gureje is the Director of World Health Organization Center for Mental and Sustenance Use at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Ibandan, Nigeria.

According to him, the idea is that in many countries, including Liberia, the number of mental health specialists is limited to meet the challenges of mental health.

“So, we need to empower those who are not specialists in order for them to receive basic training that allows them to be able to recognize and identify people with depression, psychosis, etc. so they can offer basic first line treatments,” Prof. Gureje, who is a Professor of Psychiatry, said.

Receiving the book, Dr. Arzoaquoi stated: “We are fortunate to now have a document so rich with most of the information that our mental health clinicians didn’t know. What more do we need to begin addressing mental health issues in Liberia? We now have a lot of materials; so let’s begin the work.”

He told the gathering, including mental health stakeholders, that the onus was now on them to begin providing first line treatments to people with mental health disorders.

Dr. Arzoaquoi, who also did the official launching of the mhGAP document, did so with the slogan: “mhGAP to make the difference,” adding: “The only value we can obtain from this document is to use it to the fullest.”

The representative of the WHO Representative to Liberia commended the mhLAP Liberia Office and other partners for the document. He pledged WHO’s commitment to keep the document alive in improving the lives of people with mental health disorders.

Local NGO representatives who made statements thanked Prof. Gureje for the document, which they said will help non-mental health clinicians to identify people suffering from mental health disorders.

Also making remarks, the head of the mhLAP Liberia Office, Mrs. Samantha Thomas, said their work has just begun, adding that she hopes that 500 copies will reach every health center in the country.

Meanwhile, Dr. Benjamin Harris, the only Liberian in-country practicing psychiatrist, has inducted into office a coalition of mental health stakeholders under the banner, “Liberia Coalition of Mental Health Clinicians.”

Dr. Harris, who is one of three practicing psychiatrists in the country, the other two being foreigners, said he was very glad to witness the launching of the mhGAP document.

“I’m especially honored to be here to launch the Liberia Coalition of Mental Health Clinicians,” he added, as he charged the inducted men and women to do everything they can to work for people with mental disorders.

Dr. Harris urged the authorities of the Health Ministry and other partners to work along with the coalition so that people living with mental disorders can receive the first lines of treatment.

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