By Kebba Jeffang
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program (MHLAP) on Monday, 11 July, 2016 opened a five days training for about 20 nurses on psychiatric treatment at Tendaba camp in the Lower River Region (LRR).
The nurses in attendance were selected from health facilities across the country while other participants were drawn from the American International University, West Africa The Gambia (AIUWA).
According to the organizers, the workshop is meant to train the nurses who in turn will train others on common mental health disorders and treatment.
Mr. Basiru Drammeh, Regional Principal Nursing Officer for Lower River Region (LRR), informed participants that an estimate of about 120,000 people have mental health disorder in the Gambia, out of which only 3000 people receive treatment each year.
Mr. Drammeh said this implies that most of the people with severe mental disorder in The Gambia are left without access to treatment. He stressed the need for concerted efforts to reduce the situation.
“Most of the time mental disorders go undetected or are wrongly attributed to supernatural forces or witchcraft, thus it couples with lack of access to care which can lead to devastating outcome to affected individuals and their families,” he said.
Mr. Dawda Samba, Country facilitator mental health Leadership and Advocacy Program (mhLAP), The Gambia, said mhLAP is a WHO collaboration advocacy project.
He said the project is aimed at empowering individuals and groups to do self-advocacy and capacity building in the area of mental health service delivery.
“Key among the activities of mhLAP Gambia are mass media and community advocacy programs, advocate for policy and legislative development, support to Mental Health Institution, national and international trainings and workshops, support to the mentally ill, campaign against drug misuse and abuse, annual celebrations of World Mental Health Day (WMHD) etc, he said.”
“This training is part of the process of implementing the Mental Health Gap Action Program Intervention Guide (mhGAP – IG) that The Gambia recently contextualized,” he added.
He said the workshop is primarily aimed at training a cohort of health staff to subsequently serve as cascade/step down trainers on the mhGAP IG Gambia, adding that the process started with domesticating the WHO tool in December thus signed by the Minister of Health as a national treatment guide.
Mr. Momodou Gassama, Health Promotion and Communication Officer at WHO -The Gambia, urged the nurses to make best use of the training by gathering more knowledge on mental health to enable them disseminate the information to their colleagues who did not have the chance to attend the training.
Mr Gassama called on the authorities concerned to invest more in mental health as they invest in malaria and other health implicated areas.