World Host 1st Regional Confab On Mental Illness

By Janjay F. Campbell

It is known in the Minor River Union countries that International partners are always heading programs and not giving the locals the time to head their own programs. Yesterday, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale told international partners to support health programs that already exist in African Countries and not to bring in something new.

Minister Gwenigale made the statement at the opening of an International meeting on Technical Consultation on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for People Affected by Ebola Virus Disease that is being held at the Robert L. Johnson Hotel. He mentioned that Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have to take care of what is their own, because they understand what they are going through.

He stressed that the partners should let African countries, especially those countries that are part of the Minor River Union (MRU) should run their own programs with the partners’ support and that the partners should not interfere with the programs.

Giving the opening remarks, Tolbert Nyensuah stated that the first international conference on mental health is timely for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone because the three countries were badly hit by the deadly Ebola virus.

He mentioned that people living with mental illnesses can also be affected by the Ebola virus;stating that it can further worsen their condition. According to him, the conference is the first of its kind and that before the Ebola virus outbreak, the Ministry of Health, Carter Center and other partners had a plan in place for those suffering from mental health.

To strengthen preparedness and response plans with regards to the social and mental health consequences of the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the World Health Organization (WHO) has organized this international conference to help the Ministry of Health in these three countries to make strategic plans to help people with mental illness.

In general, countries with mental health services that are community based and integrated with general health services will be better prepared for a mental health response in outbreaks of life threatening diseases. Health systems that center on large psychiatric institutions as the only service for mental health problems impede effective disaster response in an emergency.

Participants at the two-day conference were from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The objective of the conference was to identify achievements, challenges and lessons learnt in relation to 2014-2015 Ebola virus disease related mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) emergency response.