Action Africa’s visit to Sierra Leone in April-May 2019 for Mental Health Improvement
We are pleased to announce that Action Africa, Inc. sponsored a visit by a Mental Health Improvement Team, composed of US psychiatrists and Organization leaders, to Sierra Leone in April and May 2019. This was a first step in implementing a Mental Health Improvement program for the people of Sierra Leone. As is well known, the people of Sierra Leone have in recent years experienced a long civil war, the Ebola crisis, and devastating mud slides. These have left a large number of the population traumatized in a country where there is one active psychiatrist for more than eight million people.
It is our hope that we can tap the resources of major medical institutions in the US to implement the training of paraprofessionals and the establishment of mental health centers as part of existing hospitals in Sierra Leone or standalone mental health centers, that can help the populations deal with the trauma of recent events. Such efforts will hopefully curb the use of Tramadol and other substances or alcoholic abuses that have been utilized by many, especially young people, as a substitute for therapeutic healing from their trauma.
While in Freetown, the Mental Health Team together with some leaders of our organization met with the Ministry of Health officials to discuss ground rules and possible lines of action. A visit to the Kissy Hospital in Freetown as well as a private city mental health clinic helped to illustrate the nature of the crisis. There are recent improvements but the problems are deep rooted.
Our team then traveled to Makeni, Lunsar, Magburaka, meeting with doctors, nurses, students, elders and people from the villages. The Administration and some Faculty members at the University of Makeni worked with our team to host a one-day interactive seminar with students and staff. Another interactive session was organized and held with community leaders, retired and active health workers, teachers, farmers, parents and children in Lunsar. The team learned that the mental health problems are bigger than had been originally expressed. This is substantiated by the answers to a preliminary questionnaire that was distributed. The Team agreed that we can have a major impact in training people in the communities to treat addictions, provide support therapy and start NA groups. There are two types of training: 1. Training of nurse practitioners who specialize in mental health practices. 2. Training of community leaders and community health clinicians working in rural areas.
At the present time we have submitted two in-depth surveys developed by doctors from Johns Hopkins Medicine, for approval by the Ministry of Health. Once approved, these surveys need to be distributed to doctors, hospitals, and patients around the country. The results of these surveys will be utilized to develop a comprehensive mental health strategy, bringing mental health services throughout the country through the training of mental health professionals and the establishment and expansion of health facilities that deal with mental health. This comprehensive mental health strategy will be implemented with the assistance of a second trip of US based psychiatrists, who will continue to work in collaboration with our partners on the ground.
Action Africa is grateful for the time that the US psychiatrists volunteered in developing the surveys and going to Sierra Leone to observe first hand the mental health conditions in that country. Much of the implementation stage is being facilitated through our people on the ground in our partner organization, Action Salone on Health and Education (ASHE). However, they need resources to update the registration and the office facilities, so as to meet the requirements of the new government’s NGO regulations. To help move things forward, Action Africa would appreciate your assistance in donations from individuals, groups, or other entities willing to support this initiative. Donations to Action Africa are tax-deductible. We would be happy to answer any questions and we can be reached by email at Development.Director@actionafrica.org.
Pierre Bergeron, Esq., M.Div.
Action Africa Inc.
2903 Mills Avenue N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20018