Training for 18 Mental Health Workers Begins in Zwedru

ZWEDRU, Grand Gedeh – Eighteen health workers have begun receiving training in child and adolescent mental health at the Deanna Kay Isaacson School of Midwifery in Zwedru.

The training is being sponsored by the Carter Center Mental Health Program. During the opening ceremony on March 4, 2019, the Carter Center’s new country representative said the commencement of the training in Grand Gedeh is a big achievement for the Carter Center, the Health Ministry and the midwifery school.

“This is a program that we have all pray for and look forward to seeing happen,” Benedict Dossen said.

Recognizing the critical nature of mental health in a country that has gone through a protracted period of civil war and crippling Ebola epidemic, Dossen emphasized the need for Liberia to prioritize mental disorders.

Benedict Dossen, the new country representative for the Carter Center, says the ongoing training in Grand Gedeh is a boost for his organization and the government. Photo: Zeze Ballah

In 2010, the Carter Center launched its mental health program along with the Ministry of Health to bring forward a new core of health care professionals who could focus on that field. Dossen called the program “the birth of the mental health training in Liberia.”

In 2011, the program graduated its first batch of general mental health clinicians. Dossen added that in 2016, another cohort of health care professionals also graduated from a training focusing on child and adolescent mental health.

“The current batch of trainees will follow a group of motivated, determined and passionate people trying to work in an area that is largely neglected, not just in Liberia, but the world over,” Dossen noted.

“The mental health field is not an attractive area, and for us at the [Carter Center] to see committed people coming forth every time to participate in the training and spend up to six months, [this] is really worth commending.”

Students undergoing training in child and adolescent mental health in Grand Gedeh. Photo: Zeze Ballah

He said the students are sacrificing their time to acquire knowledge not only for themselves but for Liberia because the situation the country is in dire need of their assistance.

For many years, Dossen said Liberia could only boost of one psychiatric hospital but today, the country has at least 268 mental health clinicians across the country, an improvement that is “definitely increasing the mental health capacity workforce in the country.”

Of that 268, Dossen said 166 are general mental health clinicians while 102 are specialized child and adolescent mental health clinicians.

By 2021, the country’s mental health policy is pushing to have 381 mental health clinicians in all categories in the country.

“Such will be a boost for the Carter Center Mental Health program and the government because we will be able to say that the country’s 16 counties have at least 2 mental health professionals practicing at the primary level where the burden lies,” Dossen said.

Charles Sumo, the community health focus person and acting county health officer for Grand Gedeh, said his county is battling severe mental health issues.

Sumo said a majority of the youth mining gold at numerous sites across the county are abusing drugs and other substances.

“The county authority needs to do something urgently or else such will destroy the youthful population,” he said.

Charles Sumo, the Community Health Focus Person and Acting County Health Officer in Grand Gedeh. Photo: Zeze Ballah

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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