A local mental health advocacy group, Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program (MHLAP), on May 1, 2019 released its month-long research report for policy makers and health stakeholders to consider. The research was conducted on the JFK/ES Grant Mental Health Hospital, Liberia’s only mental health facility, located in Du Port Road, Paynesville.
MHLAP Country Facilitator, Madam Sametta Thomas, informed the gathering that the medical research was funded by World Health Organization (WHO) QualityRights Research Dissemination Program in Liberia.
The WHO QualityRights (QR) is a set standard for Mental Health Facilities and requires that the rights of people living with psychosocial disabilities be respected at all times. This document has five themes, comprising standards and criteria, upon which the JFK/ES Grant Mental Health Hospital in Du Port Road, Paynesville, was evaluated.
According to the five themes, mental health patients are entitled to the following:
- The right to an adequate standard of living (Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This criteria, the Mental Health Hospital was graded as having “Achieved Partically”.
- The right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Article 25 of the CRPD). This criteria, the Mental Health Hospital “Achieved Partially”.
- The right to exercise legal capacity and the right to personal liberty and the security of person (Articles 12 and 14 of the CPD). This criteria is, as according to the report, “Not Initiated”.
- Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and from exploitation, violence and abuse (Articles 15 and 16 of the CRPD). This criteria, according to the report, was also “Not Initiated”.
- The right to live independently and be included in the community (Article 19 of the CPRD). This criteria, according to the report, was “Not Initiated”.
Madam Thomas said that after conducting the research, the MHLAP also conducted training for the staff of the mental health caregivers, stressing the need to provide effective medication for mental health patients.
In its report, MHLAP also provided a number of recommendations concerning the Mental Health Hospital:
- Building of a National mental health facility that will have wards for children as well as people living with physical disabilities.
- Need for a vehicle in the facility for patients care and follow-up in communities.
- Health insurance for employees is put in place.
- Psychotropic medication is available and affordable.
- That there is budgetary allotment for MENTAL HEALTH.
In a special statement, Dr. Benjamin Harris of the WHO QualityRights tool kit called on mental health stakeholders to establish smaller institutions in the country.
“We need smaller units and staff across the country that should be trained to support some of the mentally ill persons, and maintain those staffs with the requisite electronic gadgets for their medical diagnosis,” Dr. Harris said, citing the need to decentralize mental health caregiving across Liberia.
He explained that such electronic gadgets are expensive and called on health stakeholders and policy makers, including members of House of Representatives and Senate to support the mental programs.
On the rights of people with mental illness, Sidney Flomo, a senior research with MHLAP, called on the Liberian government and related health stakeholders to prioritize support and care for mental health persons. he is the lead research person
He underscored the need for professional capacity-building of the mental health professionals and equip them with tools that will be responsive to the needs of people that have mental health challenges in the country.
“Our primary concern about persons with mental health problems cannot be overly emphasized, and should therefore claim the attention of all Liberians,” Mr. Flomo said.
Dr. Sia Camanor, chief medical officer of the John F. Kennedy Hospital, called on mental health institutions to discuss with the JFK leadership for emergency support for all categories of mental health personnel. She said that in the short term, in order to find solutions to the challenges of the mental health patients; all those connected to the mental health sector should work together and support drug assistance.
“We are ready to help our mental health personnel in our country but, such team work must begin to identify the most critical areas that require our urgent attention,” Dr. Kamanor asserted.
In separate remarks, stakeholders and participants called on the relevant ministries and agencies to intensify the advocacy for budgetary support to the mental health programs.