ZWEDRU, Grand Gedeh – The Carter Center has completed its final planned mental health and anti-stigma training for pharmacists nationwide. The latest training covered 19 pharmacists from the southeastern region of the country.
The training was organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s Mental Health Unit in Grand Gedeh.
The final batch of pharmacists trained was drawn from Grand Gedeh, Sinoe, Maryland, Grand Kru, River Gee, Nimba, and River Cess. In 2019, the Carter Center also trained a total of 22 pharmacists in Gbarnga, Bong. An additional 30 others were also trained that year from across the country, bringing the total pharmacists trained by the Carter Center to 71.
A 2012 survey of 45 pharmacists in Liberia revealed evidence of stigma and discrimination by pharmacists due to a lack of knowledge and myths surrounding mental, neurological, and substance use conditions.
To tackle this, the Carter Center Mental Health Program collaborated with the Mental Health Unit and conducted in-service training in 2013 for 30 pharmacists from across the country, drawing their attention to the important role they have to play in healthcare delivery. [Full disclosure: The author is a member of the Mental Health Reporters Network of Liberia, which is supported by the Carter Center.]
The in-service training in 2013 eventually led to the development of mental health and anti-stigma training for several other pharmacists. Strategic Objective Six of the National Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan 2021 mandates that all practicing pharmacists are trained in mental health to ensure better management and distribution of psychotropic medications, collaborative care, and the reduction of stigma and discrimination associated with mental illnesses.
Dr. Gorbee Gabriel Logan, the assistant minister for Curative Services, who was the most senior figure from the ministry in Zwedru, said the Ebola epidemic outbreak in 2014 drew attention to mental health and psychosocial problems in the country.
On behalf of the government, Logan expressed gratitude to the Carter Center and Partners in Health for supporting mental health programs in the country.
Also making remarks at the training’s opening was Grand Gedeh’s county health officer, Dr. Augustine Fannieh, who called the training an ‘eye opener’ that would enable pharmacists to understand and prioritize mental health issues, especially when making requisitions for drugs.
Fannieh advised the Carter Center and PIH to provide mental health drugs to health facilities in Grand Gedeh. He said many patients suffer from epilepsy in the county, and clinicians were finding it frustrating “to diagnose patients who need care and cannot provide the needed drugs.”
For her part, Angie Tarr-Nyakoon, the director at the Health Ministry’s Mental Health Unit, emphasized that enhancing pharmacists’ training across the country is one of the key objectives of the National Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan 2021.
She expressed the need for continuous in-service training in mental health and anti-stigma to the ministry’s partners. Tarr-Nyakoon saw a need to integrate mental health and anti-stigma training into the School of Pharmacy’s curriculum at the University of Liberia.
Tarr-Nyakoon also emphasized the importance of in-service training as it highlights integration and coordination between the pharmacists and mental health clinicians in the 15 counties.
Featured photo by Wilfred Gwaikolo/Carter Center