Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust and Horizons Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital, yesterday held a one-day stakeholders co-development community mental health promotion workshop at the British Council in Freetown.
Speaking at the official opening of the stakeholders workshop the minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Haja Musu Kandeh, said the current status of those affected with mental health was neglected by the society.
She commended the organizers of the workshop for taking the bold steps in addressing some of the serious issues affecting the mentally challenged through community mental health promotion, and appealed to concern authorities to support them in their drive.
The project coordinator, Evelyn Hancils, gave an overview of the workshop which focused on the promotion of community mental health and the need for an integrated work within mental health for the benefit of grassroot Sierra Leoneans.
She noted that her organization’s major objective was to coordinate mental health care within the 12 districts of Sierra Leone which started since November 2005, adding that they were now trying to engage in promoting community mental health care and establish integration within health care settings.
She lamented that the country was finding it very difficult to seek the welfare of the mentally affected as they could only boast of one consultant in the entire country to handle mental health cases.
Madam Hancils added that her organization would also formulate methods that could provide sustainability and resource availability for the community mental health in Sierra Leone so as to achieve the aims and objectives of the organization.
The first lady Sia Koroma in her contribution underscored the importance of mental health promotion, and called for an integrated approach to advocate for member health care planning and implementation.
She also spoke about the challenges attached to the mentally retarded as stigmatization and discrimination had become major stumbling block towards the promotion of mental health in Sierra Leone. Dr Edward Nahim, a consultant psychiatric at the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital at Kissy, gave an overview of the mental health services in Sierra Leone 30 years ago, and also gave a brief background of the community mental health team pilot projects in Kailahun and Magburaka.
He attributed the increase of mental health cases to poverty, use and misuse of harmful drugs, trauma and unemployment which he referred to as the legacies of the brutal war in the country. He added that, “Sierra Leone is now a centre of anarchy if the issue of mental health is not treated with community approach”. Dr Nahim disclosed that 90% of mental health cases were treated with traditional methods and religious practices, but that the Kissy Mental Home had been immensely contributing to the reduction of mental health cases in the country.
He also catalogued some of the challenges affecting the mental home, which he said, included lack of government’s support in the provision of adequate logistic and technical services, poor conditions of service and the lack of working materials. The deputy minister of health and sanitation, Sheku Tejan Koroma, promised to support the mental home and encouraged them to present a draft policy on mental health to be incorporated in the ministry’s health plan.
Professor S.T.O Alghali highlighted the risk factors of mental health and also gave recommendations that stakeholders could use for resource mobilization and sustainability of programmes that seek the welfare of the mentally affected.