Liberia

Liberia Commemorates the World Health Day: Minister of Health calls for increased Efforts on the Prevention and Management of Depression

Dr Alex Gasasira handing over a consignment of assorted items for E.S Grant Hospital to Dr Francis Kateh, Deputy Minister of Health/CMO. Looking on is Mrs. Cooper, the Hospital administrator Dr Alex Gasasira handing over a consignment of assorted items for E.S Grant Hospital to Dr Francis Kateh, Deputy Minister of Health/CMO. Looking on is Mrs. Cooper, the Hospital administrator

Monrovia 10th April, 2017:  Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability affecting over 300 million people, representing 4% of the global population. The Ministry of Health of Liberia estimates that over 1.5 million Liberians live with depression, but most are not aware, and therefore do not seek appropriate care.

7th April, which marks the anniversary on which the World Health Organization (WHO) was founded, was designated “World Health Day” by Ministers of health from Member States. This year, the day was commemorated under the theme “Depression, Let’s talk”. This theme is particularly important for Liberia that was once affected by many years of civil strife and is currently recovering from the ravages of Ebola Virus Disease. This year a special event to highlight the World Health Day on the 7th April was organized at JFK/Edward Snoh Grant Mental Hospital in Montserrado.

In his remarks, Dr Francis Kateh, Deputy Minister of Health and Chief Medical officer, RL, observed that depression is a common daily occurrence and underscored the importance of talking about it to reduce the associated stigma which hinders those affected from seeking appropriate treatment. In addition, he encouraged communities to take interest in their neighbours who manifest symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders and support them to seek care. Dr Kateh commended the Carter Center for training over 200 midlevel mental health practitioners in Liberia and appealed to young doctors to take a professional interest in psychiatry. He appreciated the support from WHO and other partners, towards updating the national mental health policy and operational plan.

The WHO Country Representative, Dr Alex Gasasira commended the Ministry of Health and John F. Kenedy Hospital for prioritizing mental health as part of the Essential package of health services. Dr Gasasira appealed to different segments of society including family members, friends, community, health workers, and religious groups to continue playing their different roles in addressing this important public health and supporting those affected.  He thanked all partners who support the Ministry of Health efforts, frontline mental health workers and mental health clinicians who provide tertiary care and counselling services to those living with depression.

In the same light, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in her annual message on the World Health Day called upon member states to support mental health programs noting that with proper care, psychosocial assistance and medication, millions of people in the region experiencing depression could begin to lead normal lives, even where resources are scarce.

Others present at the world health day commemoration who made special remarks included Dr Yatta Sakie Wapoe, County Health Officer of Montserrado, a representative from Unicef, a representative of the International NGOs Dr Janice Cooper from Carter Center, as well as representatives of local NGOs. The speakers congratulated the Ministry of Health for increasing awareness on depression and particularly for collaborating and involving the mentally ill patients in the commemoration.

Other activities to mark the World Health Day included mass media programs, and the provision of mass screening for depression in all the 15 counties by mental health clinicians and primary health care workers. WHO used this World Health Day to respond to some needs of the E.S Grant Mental Hospital by providing a consignment of assorted items as a contribution towards the patients’ wellbeing. Some of the partners that compliment Government efforts on the provision of mental health services in Liberia include, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mother Patern College of Health Sciences, Partners in Health (PIH), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Liberia Association of Psychosocial Services (LAPs), LUADA, THINK, MhLap, REVAP, Teen Challenge, Action Contre La Faim (ACF), Africare, Americare, Concern Worldwide, and John Snow Inc (JSI).

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Photos:

1. Dr Alex Gasasira handing over a consignment of assorted items for E.S Grant Hospital to Dr Francis Kateh, Deputy Minister of Health/CMO. Looking on is Mrs. Cooper, the Hospital administrator

2. Patients from E.S Grant Mental Hospital dramatizing a counselling session in the management of depression as part of their presentation during the World Health Day