The Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing’s Para-Medical Training Program in Suakoko, Bong County, on Friday, March 23, graduated 15 Mental Health Clinicians from its Post-basic Mental Health Clinician Training Program.
The graduates, who were certified into the medical practice as general mental health clinicians, were recruited through hospital administrators and the county health teams of Lofa, Bong, Margibi and Montserrado. These are counties that were hardest hit by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that plagued the country in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
The six-month intensive training program attracted nurses, registered midwives and physician assistants from the four counties. The program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Advancing Partners and Communities Project, which is implemented by John Snow Inc. (JSI).
JSI is a US-based non-governmental organization that works with host governments to strengthen health systems and improve access to quality health services globally. It has been working to help strengthen the Liberian health system since 2006. It is currently implementing the Ebola Transmission Prevention and Survivor Services Program.
The Carter Center, another international NGO, has donated a vehicle and training materials for the program.
Kolee Gboyo, Phebe Mental Health Clinician Training Program Coordinator, said that the graduates successfully completed a six-module training, guided by the Mental Health Curricula developed by the Ministry of Health, WHO (World Health Organization), and the Carter Center.
According to Mr. Gboyo, the Mental Health Clinicians will be redeployed to their various health posts, to provide mental health services for Ebola survivors, family members of victims of Ebola, and the general population.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa, who lauded JSI and the Carter Center for supporting the training of mental health practitioners. The graduation ceremony consisted of the first-ever group of mental health clinicians hosted at the Lutheran Church in Suakoko, Bong County.
Dr. Tokpa said the deployment of at least one mental health clinician at every health center is necessary, because Liberians have gone through years of high and increasing stress, which contributed to widespread mental illnesses and disorders. He recollected a traumatic situation at Cuttington University in 2007, while he was President of the University. There had been a riot on campus, staged by some ex-combatants who had enrolled in the University. However, Dr. Tokpa said it could have been avoided if the University had a trained cadre of mental health clinicians available, to provide needed mental healthcare and referrals immediately after the war.
Tokpa then lauded the graduates for taking advantage of the training, and challenged them to exhibit what they have acquired. According to him, many people will depend on them (graduates) for direction in life. JSI’s Deputy Chief of Party, Ms. Yvonne Kodl, praised the new graduates for their dedication and commitment to their training, and said that JSI was honored to have worked with them.
Ms. Kodl said the program is critical, given the many ways that trauma, stigma and stress negatively impact communities across the country. Her hope is that JSI’s support for the program will serve as a catalyst for Phebe to absorb, grow, and nurture the training program, and make it their own.
Phebe Hospital Board Chair, Tornorlah Varpilah, lauded JSI for supporting its mental health training program. Varpilah acknowledged that mental health is a serious challenge for Liberia and asked the Ministry of Health to take charge of the program.
He thanked the graduates, describing them as a group of people who will bring happiness to their fellowmen.