Mental health problems are common, and the burden they put on individuals, families and communities across the world is growing. Health systems have not yet adequately responded to this burden, and as a result, the gap between the need for treatment and its provision is wide.
According to the WHO, in low and middle-income countries between 76% and 85% of people with mental disorders receive no treatment. Although growing, mental health services in The Gambia are still at an early stage of development, and at present, there are only a small number of trained mental health nurses.
With this in mind, MRC Unit The Gambia held a training weekend with a local mental health organization, Mobee, and a team from the UK, Alternative Futures Group, along with the country mental health coordinator, Pa Bakary Sonko, to train health workers in mental health. The training was held at MRC Fajara from the 28th to 29th November 2015 and was attended by 30 MRC staff, from Fajara and Keneba.
The training was timely as The World Health Organisation calls for the “training of health professionals, to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights oriented policy and law” on World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October. There is still a lot of stigma and fear associated with mental health problems, and sufferers often face discrimination and indignity. Through increased awareness and community education, we aim to work towards improving the situation in The Gambia.
The training explored many different areas of mental health and included interactive group sessions, an update on mental health law in The Gambia, and valuable input from specialists from the UK. Amongst others, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress were covered, looking at how these conditions can be diagnosed, and how they can be effectively managed.
“Following this training, we hope that staff will feel more confident working with people with mental health problems. We look forward to engaging training institutions in The Gambia to improve undergraduate training in mental health, using the experience of some of the MRC Unit The Gambia staff. We look forward to future collaborations with both Mobee and Alternative Futures Group” said Dr Rowena Neville, Head of Clinical Services, MRC Keneba.