By Ben T.C. Brooks-Zwedru
In an effort to refurbish the health sector, the Carter Center (TCC) in coration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, graduated 18 Mental Health clinicians in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.
The program was held over the weekend in the auditorium on the campus of the Deanna Kay Isaacson School for Southeastern branch of the midwifery training program’s auditorium. It brought together deputy minister of Health, Vaifee Tulay, and Benedict Dossen, the new country representative for The Carter Center (TCC), the Grand Gedeh County Health Team and representatives from the county authority.
The 18 child and adolescent mental health clinicians were trained through TCC and the MoH’s Health’s six months Post Basic Mental Health Training program with funding from the government of Japan, through the World Bank.
The keynote speaker is the Deputy Minister of Health for health services Vaifee Tulay, said mental illness accounts for about one-third of the world’s disability, resulting in enormous personal suffering and socioeconomic cost.
Tulay said a statistical data of the World Health Organization (WHO) on mental health, revealed that 20 percent of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders, while 50% of mental disorders began before the age of 14.
Tulay said it is estimated that about 800,000 people worldwide commit suicide every year caused by “mental illness” between the ages of 15-29 years, while around 10-20 million depressed individuals attempted suicide every year and approximately one million complete suicide.
With these alarming situation, the WHO in 2016, declared depression to be the leading cause of disability worldwide, he noted.
Minister Tulay described mental illness as the pandemic of the 21st century and will be one of the major global health challenges if not address quickly.
“It is estimated that 350 million people experience depression yearly on the average, it takes almost 10 years to obtain treatment after symptoms of depressed mood begin and two-thirds of depressed individuals never receive adequate care. Mental health disorders are the most common diseases of childhood, more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes and AIDS” Minister Tulay said.
“Severe mental health problems including major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders affect all age groups and occur in all countries, of which Liberia is no exception,” he said.
Minister Tulay, urged graduates to help integrate mental health services into the larger healthcare system through knowledge acquired to help save Liberia from mental illness.
Speaking on behalf of the graduating class president, LNP Inspector, Sembay Koluba Sembay BA, PA, RMHC extend thanked and appreciation to funding donor, Cater Center and the Liberian government through her health ministry for affording them the opportunity to achieved in mental health.
He used the occasion to call on the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health, to provide more budgetary support to the mental health services in the country.
“Mental health should be in included in our national curriculum to be taught as a separate course in universities, and colleges, let there be a scholarship programs to seek advancement in mental health clinicians” LNP Inspector, Sembay Koluba Sembay concluded.
In remarks, Grand Gedeh County nurse’s services director, Martha Tubman Memorial hospital, said Grand County is battling severe mental health issues.
“We have majority of the youth in this county that are abusing drugs and other substances, so there is a need that all of us including the county authority do something urgently or else such will destroy the youthful population,” he said.
The Carter Center’s new country representative James Dorbor Jallah, said the completion of the training in Grand Gedeh is a big achievement for his organization, the Health Ministry and the midwifery school.
Recognizing the critical nature of mental health in a country that has gone through a protracted period of civil war and crippling Ebola epidemic, Jallah emphasized that there is a need for the Liberian government to prioritize mental disorders.
“Years ago, Liberia had just 1 psychiatrist but of now, the Carter Center has worked hard with the Liberian government and partners and have trained over 400 mental health clinicians, of which more than 100 are specialized in child & adolescent issues,” Jallah said.
It can be recalled in 2010, the Carter Center launched its national mental health program along with the Ministry of Health to bring forward a new core of health care professionals to focus on mental health, while in 2011 the program graduated its first batch of 16 mental health clinicians.
Meanwhile the Cater Center COP said the students are sacrificing their time to acquire knowledge not only for themselves but for Liberia because the situation the country is in dire need of their assistance therefore they should supported upon completion of studies.
Representing Grand Gedeh County local authority, the administrative assistant to the county superintendent, Olaska Wulu Barh, has praised the Cater Center and the ministry of health for implementing such a program in Liberian society.
He then pledged local government commitment to supporting graduates of from Grand Gedeh County and batch to come.