THE 3rd MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE OF THE MENTAL HEALTH COALITION OF SIERRA LEONE (MHC-SL) – Tuesday 18th March, 2014
British Council, Freetown, Sierra Leone
THEME: ‘Creating Sustainable Mental Health Systems in Sierra Leone’
The Conference commenced with silent individual prayers followed by a statement welcoming delegates present. The chairman of program Joshua Abioseh Duncan, who is doubling as the Country facilitator of the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program in Sierra Leone (mhLAP) as well as the Project Coordinator of the City of Rest wing of the Enabling Access to Mental Health in Sierra Leone (EAMHSL-CoR) emphasized that the third Mental Health Conference of the Mental Health Coalition – Sierra Leone was surely a memorable event as the content and outcome would have a lasting effect in the lives of all attendees.
Statements were made by noble dignitaries. Major among sensitive extracts brought out in their statements are the under mentioned:
The Deputy Minister 1, MOHS, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah
The deputy minister thanked the organizers, regretting the unavoidable absence of the Minister of Health, Madam Miatta Kargbo. Dr. Fofanah applauded the Coalition and partners for their ‘extraordinary commitment to a very important goal amidst the technical, financial and other demands.’ He pointed out that a sound mental state is not only central to the personal wellbeing of the individual, but also a condition for socio-economic development. The timing is critical, due to the residual post-conflict trauma, plus the distress of the global economic meltdown. He stated that the government of His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, wants people living with mental health challenges and organizations supporting them to know that they are not alone. The Minister encouraged the MH Coalition to press forward with their ambitious and forward looking agenda.
Mr. Walter Carew, Chairman Mental Health Coalition-Sierra Leone
Mr Carew expressed the Coalition’s pride to host the third successive conference. He said the 2014 theme of ‘Creating sustainable mental health systems in Sierra Leone’, is the most appropriate next step on how we can create Sustainable Mental Health Systems in our Country that would ensure access to good quality Mental Health service that will meet the need of all’. Such a system should be: Holistic, Culturally relevant and Sustainable. The Chairman underlined the need for government to take the driving seat and provide leadership and direction. He ended with a repeat of last Conference’s appeal to the Government through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation that the review of the current legislation called the ‘Lunacy act of 1902’ be given HIGH PRIORITY as it is KEY in protecting the rights of the service users and providers, thus contributing positively to the sustainability of any Mental Health system set up in country.
Chairman of the Commission for Persons with Disabilities
The Chairman stated that “We are all potential candidates of mental ill-health”. He spoke of adverse consequences if the nation’s mental health is not addressed, including Autism and other areas. He lamented that there are no schools where there are psychologists dealing with mental health issues. He warned, things could go worse if not addressed at this stage before children grow up.
Dep. Minister, Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mustapha Bai Attilla
The minister emphasized that the theme is ambitious and that suitability is beyond just saying. Development activities should be designed taking into consideration mental health issues. He concluded with the following questions: Where are we now? Where do we intend going? What do we need to do to go where we intend? What measures have we put in place to go there? Research shows that mental health faces discrimination – therefore reordering of the social order is of uttermost importance, since mental health victims are also humans, robust efforts should be made to operationalize the theme.
STATEMENT BY THE WHO REPRESENTATIVE – DR. JACOB MUFUNDA
The Statement of the WHO Representative was read by Aminata Kobie who tendered Dr. Mufunda’s apologies for being unavoidably absent. He stated that people with mental and psychosocial disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in developing countries. Policies, laws and services in many countries reinforce human rights violations or fail to promote human rights. The burden of mental health is enormous. An estimated one in four people globally will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Mental health conditions are responsible for a great deal of mortality and disability, accounting for 8.8% and 16.6% of the total burden of disease due to health conditions in low and middle income countries, respectively. He informed all that WHO is committed to supporting the improvement in mental health.
MHLAP – Joshua Duncan
“Transformation of mental health systems…requires unprecedented commitment from Government etc… Without systems, the functionality of society could not “
AWARENESS RAISING DRAMA
The West Africa Medical Mission team made a drama presentation on the effect of discriminating and stigmatizing against the mentally ill and possible means of addressing these challenges.
Prof. Joop de Jong, MD, PhD, University of Amsterdam, AISSR, Boston University School of Medicine
Prof. Joop de Jong’s presentation is titled: “Public Mental Health as the royal road to sustainable mental health coverage”. He defined Public mental health as ‘the discipline, the practice and the systematic social actions that protect, promote and restore the mental health of a population’.
The three sustainability keys are: protect, promote and restore. For sustainability, we must learn to thinkPublic Health. He highlighted the common tendency to ‘always want to treat (restore individuals), rather than prevent (protect Communities). Appreciating the mhGAP Intervention Guide launched by the WHO in 2010, he recommended that the Guide needed ‘cultural adaptation and long-term implementation.
In Jong’s Conclusion the following Key-Points were highlighted:
The PMH model accommodates a variety of preventive and curative interventions.
Multi-sectoral, multi-modal and multi-level preventive principles can be applied in an integrative and eclectic way. Prevention can be molded to the requirements of the specific socio-cultural contexts
The model helps to clarify the complementary relationship between the UN and (Non) Governmental actors
It shows how the sectors of health, education, social affairs, human rights, gender and rural development can collaborate. The model may help to identify gaps in our knowledge and to guide the future elaboration of a preventive approach. The increasing complexity of health systems demands that we rethink the competencies of mental health professionals
Other Presentations and case studies at the conference were thus done:
Theme 1: Sustainability – Case Study (Hannah Boakerie) http://www.commitandact.com
Theme 2: Holistic – Conceptual Presentation was done by Dr. Carmen Valle with Co Presenters on Holistic Case study by Concern World Wide.
Yoga Exercise: – T-man and Tamsin had delegates do some yoga exercise which added the desired flavor to the entire program.
Theme 3: Culturally relevant – was presented by Harvard University whilst the Case Studies was done by (WHI-FAAST)
The participants also benefited from tea-break and lunch as well as break-in-group sessions.