ZWEDRU, Grand Gedeh – The Carter Center Mental Health Program has begun its mental health clinician training program for 20 health workers, in partnership with the Deanna Kay Isaacson School of Midwifery.
The training began on January 8, 2020, and the 8 females and 12 males were selected from Lofa, Montserrado, Grand Gedeh, Sinoe, River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru, and Bomi. Upon completion, the health workers will become licensed child and adolescent mental health clinicians.
Speaking at the opening of the training, the deputy head of programs at the Carter Center, Wilfred Gwaikolo, reiterated the center’s commitment to supporting programs geared towards improving mental health care delivery in Liberia.
Gwaikolo told the health workers that his organization works to provide training for students to acquire the basic skills and knowledge in the area of mental health. He warned them to brace themselves, as “the six months and two weeks training is going to be challenging.”
He said the program, normally lasting for an even six months, would be extended for an additional two weeks to allow for an English grammar and writing course, given that the 2019 graduates had significant problems in that area.
Former education minister George Kronnisanyon Werner taught the English writing course. He said he was excited to be a part of the training.
Werner encouraged the trainees to be more confident in their language skills, advising them to not be ashamed to communicate in their local vernacular.
“If someone speaks their first language very well, it is more likely that their second language will be a little less difficult,” he said. “Your first language is your mode of communication.”
Apart from previously heading the education sector, Werner has spent many years teaching in a variety of settings in Liberia and abroad. Additionally, he also previously worked in a mental health setting in the United States.
“I have taught in many countries, including [in] Liberia at the Mother Pattern College of Health Sciences,” he told the trainees.
The current training was in fulfillment of the government’s 2016-2021 Mental Health Strategic Plan, the Carter Center’s Gwaikolo said. He noted that 344 mental health clinicians have now been trained out of the 380 targeted in the plan.
With two more cohorts, he said Liberia would have met 100 percent of that target in the mental health policy.
“The goal is to support the Health Ministry to implement the mental health policy in order to strengthen the workforce, conduct anti-stigma awareness, and deliver mental health services to persons suffering from mental illness,” he said.
At the end of the training, Gwaikolo said his organization will turn the trainees over to the Liberia Nursing Board to take the state board exam, which will qualify them to become licensed mental health clinicians.
The director for the School of Midwifery, Anna Doe Smallwood, who welcomed the new trainees, explained that a year ago, the school entered an agreement with the Carter Center to train health workers.
In 2019, Smallwood said the first batch of 18 trainees graduated from the school.
She stressed that the country needs more mental health clinicians, pointing out “we are at your service and not your bosses.”
The agreement between the school and the Carter Center will see financial support provided for the two cohorts. Additionally, a Carter Center staff who is a licensed mental health clinician will coordinate and support the training and provide mentorship to a designated staff of the School of Midwifery. That trained staff is then expected to take the role of a training officer after the agreement has ended.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah