GBARNGA, Bong – The Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Unit, along with international and local partners, recently met in Gbarnga to validate Liberia’s 2016-2021 strategic plan for mental health.
The retreat drew dozens of participants and aimed to identify strategic objectives and develop actions to achieve those targets. Those objectives would be used as a roadmap for service development, implementation, evaluation, as well as quality improvement for the nation’s mental health system.
Benedict Charles Harris, the Assistant Minister for Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Health, said Liberia’s vision to become a middle-income country by 2030 can only be accomplished if the country has a healthy population. Accordingly, “this is why it has become very critical, crucial and pivotal to have the issue of mental health taking the center stage of any national discussion,” he said. He expects the strategic plan to be complete by the end of May 2016.
At the retreat, Dr. Janice Cooper, Country Representative of the Carter Center’s Mental Health Initiative, reiterated her call for the legislature to pass the long-overdue mental health bill.
Cooper expressed her frustration that even after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf asked the legislature to pass the bill during her State of the Nation address, “nothing has been done about the legislation which is still languishing in the lower house.”
“Certain things cannot be done by us for persons with mental disorders in the absence of the passage of the mental health legislation,” Cooper maintained. She challenged the Ministry of Health to ensure the bill was passed to enable better treatment of mental disorders in the country.
In the 2001 report “New Understanding, New Hope,” the World Health Organization urged governments to seek solutions for mental health that are already available and affordable.
To do his, WHO said governments should move away from large mental institutions and towards community health care, and integrate mental health care into primary health care and the general health care system.
The report urged governments to devise strategic plans and pass legislations necessary to bring about positive change in the acceptance and treatment of mental disorders.
Present at the validation retreat were representatives from WHO, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mother Patern College of Health Sciences, and Médecins Sans Frontières.
The event was organized by the Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Unit and sponsored by WHO.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah