Carter Center Boosts Liberia’s Mental Health Program

-As 19 More Liberians Graduate
The 19 Liberians who graduated at the Monrovia City Hall as trained mental health clinicians last week brings to a total of 268 Liberians that have been trained to serve as mental health clinicians in Liberia under the Carter Center’s Mental Health Training Program.
According to a press release from the Carter Center in Atlanta Georgia, USA, among those trained in Liberia, 102 specialize in the needs of children and adolescents.The training program, developed by the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program, was done in partnership with the Liberia Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
According to our source from the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, these graduates, the fifth cohort of clinicians will focus on children and youth and will also provide mental health and psychosocial care in schools, clinics, and other child and youth-centered settings.
“Liberia is making a brighter future for all of its citizens by investing in the mental health of adults, children, and adolescents,” former U.S. First Lady and Carter Center Co-founder Rosalynn Carter said.
These graduates bring to 268 the total number of professionals trained through the collaboration of the Carter Center Mental Health Program in Liberia and the Liberian government with a view for Liberia to improve access to mental health services. The clinicians work in primary care facilities, hospitals, and other settings frequented by children, such as daycare centers and schools, across all 15 counties, as Liberia seeks to strengthen its mental health services.
This group of Liberian nurses, physician assistants, and registered midwives completed a free, six-month, Child and Adolescent Post-Basic Mental Health Training Program at the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts in Monrovia, Liberia.
Liberia is on course to reach its goal of expanding access to mental health care to 70 percent of the population in the next few years. Previously, this nation with a current population of 4.6 million had one psychiatrist to meet the needs of at least 300,000 Liberians suffering from mental illnesses.
Graduates of The Carter Center program had to pass a credential exam earlier this month administered by the Liberian Board of Nursing and Midwifery and the Liberia Physician Assistants Association a a criteria to practice as licensed mental health clinicians.
This allows them to return to their counties of origin to practice as child and adolescent mental health specialists, and to practice in primary care settings that focus on children and adolescents, or to begin working in school-based clinics.
Graduates of this program have been critical to Liberia’s post-Ebola and post-war recovery.
Since 2010, mental health clinicians trained by The Carter Center program have made a lasting impact in their communities by establishing new services. Clinicians have opened 14 clinical practices in prison systems, trained nurse midwives to screen for maternal depression, trained teachers in social and emotional development and mental health, supported the nation’s first mental health consumer organization, worked in Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), and provided psychosocial supports to individuals and families affected by the Ebola virus.
This new cohort of child and adolescent mental health clinicians is assisting in these efforts by providing specialized care to Liberian youth. Over 20 schools now have clinicians in their clinics or have regular visits by mental health clinicians.
“Each graduating class of clinicians demonstrates enthusiasm to use their specialized skills to provide quality mental health services wherever children and adolescents frequent. They recognize the need for community-based care and stigma reduction.
“We have a strong workforce of clinicians to support children, adolescents and their families all over the country,” said Dr. Janice Cooper, a native Liberian and project lead for the Carter Center’s mental health initiative in Liberia”.
The Child and Adolescent Post-Basic Mental Health Training program is part of a three-year initiative to address the psychological effects of Liberia’s Ebola crisis and to promote psychosocial health in the country.
The project, Supporting Psychosocial Health and Resilience in Liberia, is funded by Japan through the Japan Social Development Fund, a trust fund administered by the World Bank. The project is expected to reach approximately 19,000 beneficiaries in Montserrado (including Monrovia) and Margibi counties, working through county health teams.
In addition to promoting long-term health and resilience through the newly credentialed child and adolescent mental health clinicians, the project provides support to respond to the intermediate psychosocial impact of Ebola. The Carter Center, in collaboration with Liberian stakeholders, has trained Ebola first responders in self-care, facilitated community healing dialogues for Ebola-affected families, and trained health and social workers to provide community-based mental health care and family psycho-education.
These and other efforts through this project offer support and capacity building for individuals and communities affected by Ebola. Along with the two county health teams, six school-based health centers also have been established.
The psychological impact of more than a decade of civil conflict, which ended in 2003, has contributed to a mental health crisis in Liberia that has been intensified by: misconceptions, stigma, and the resulting discrimination surrounding mental illnesses; lack of mental health care training for health professionals; and inadequate supplies of necessary medications. The Ebola crisis exacerbated these needs.
While every Liberian county now has at least nine mental health clinicians, there remains a need to build up services in places with treatment gaps. The largest concentration of Carter Center-trained clinicians, 64, collaborate with WHO-trained clinicians in 45 facilities to serve a population of more than 1 million in Montserrado County, where the capital, Monrovia, is located.
Remote areas in some counties like Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, River Gee, and Grand Kru all have an average of 12 mental health clinicians leading and shaping mental health services.
This graduating class of 19 clinicians was the last in the collaboration with The Carter Center and Liberia’s Ministry of Health through funding from the World Bank and the Japanese government. The Ministry of Health, with support from The Carter Center will continue to train child and adolescent clinicians through the DKI School of Midwifery.
The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program in Liberia is supported by contributions from individuals, governments, corporations, and foundations such as the UBS Optimus Foundation.

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