The Executive Director of the Renewed Energy Serving Humanity (RESH), Ernest Garnark Smith, is calling on government and its partners to provide more support to mental health programs.
Smith said the decade-long Liberian war, when Liberians went through or witnessed disturbing and stressful situations, coupled with the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) left many Liberians traumatized, but what is worrisome is that “many of them are yet to be de-traumatized.”
“We see a lot of people in the streets who appear confused. They need help, too. It is incumbent upon our government to intervene in their situations by coming up with supporting programs that work in that direction,” Smith added.
He made the appeal recently at the opening of an intensive eight-week psychosocial support enhancement training for 300 newly recruited volunteers initiated by RESH.
Many Liberians continue to complain that government is doing nothing to take mentally-ill people off the streets, something that should be embarrassing for the country. “We see many mentally-challenged people in the streets, but some of them are not mentally-ill. They just have some minor problems,” Smith added, criticizing that the social protection arm of the government is doing little to tackle the problem.
The Ministry of Health was stripped of this responsibility which now rests with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Smith, a university lecturer and a psychosocial counselor, advised that people with mental conditions should be taken off the streets.
“We have a lot of work to do and we must begin now. Government and partners need to put some money in this direction,” he said.
Smith disclosed that RESH is helping to reduce the high number of mentally ill people in the country through its psychosocial program. “Our ongoing program is evidence to this effect,” he added.
The 300 volunteers, according to the RESH founder and Executive Director, were recruited through a vigorous vetting process earlier this month.
Held under the theme, ‘Preparing to Serve Mama Liberia and Humanity,’ the trainees are expected to cover at least 10 psychosocial-support-related courses over eight weeks.
Courses earmarked for the training include Introduction to Psychosocial Counseling, Substance Abuse, Mental Health Issues, Volunteerism, Working with Children Faced with Traumatic Issues; Introduction to Guidance Counseling, Community Sensitization and Mobilization; and Introduction to Social Works, Temperament Analysis, among others.
According to Smith, these topics are expected to be taught by qualified individuals with experience in the field of psychosocial support.
Upon the completion of the training, the 300 volunteers will be deployed in their communities to serve as RESH ambassadors, and will be charged with the responsibilities of identifying basic psychosocial support-related issues, providing basic services proportional to their training, and making the requisite referrals.
Speaking separately to the Daily Observer, trainees Jensen Cheeseman, Tutu G. Korfeh and Alexander Lloyd lauded RESH for the initiative and pledged to be good volunteers in the field.
As part of RESH’s programs, they also train EVD survivors in skills that would add to their economic health, such as soap-making. Recently it graduated at least 40 survivors from this program.