Several Liberians In Kenya to Attend Global Mental Health Conference


Several Liberians are presently in Nairobi, Kenya to participate in the Global Mental Health conference schedule for February 10-14, 2020.
The Liberia delegation comprised of representatives from the Carter Center Mental Health Program, Cultivation for Users’ Hope, Liberia Center for Outcomes Research on Mental Health and the Mental Health Reporters’ Network.
The conference is being organized and led by ‘Time for Change,’ a UK based organization, in collaboration with Basic Rights based in Nairobi, Kenya.
The first batch of delegates from Cultivation for Users’ Hope and Liberia Center for Outcomes Research on Mental Health departed the country on Saturday, February 8. The next delegation from the Carter Center and Mental Health Reporters’ Network left on Monday, February 10 to participate in the conference.
The delegates are expected to attend different sessions at the conference. Although the conference is intended for Commonwealth countries; Liberia is being invited to participate and the strategies developed will be adapted and use locally.
Benedict Dossen who leads The Carter Center Mental Health Program indicated in an exclusive interview said that this year conference is about addressing the issues of stigmatization and discrimination faced by persons living with mental disorders and creating a platform for their voices to be heard as well as sharing their own experiences.
“Liberia is participating because what comes out of the conference is something useful,” he said.
“This is a campaign intended to raise awareness for mental health by engaging world leaders and policy makers to contribute more to improving mental health.” Dossen explained.
The five-day conference according to Dossen will be characterized by series of activities including the “Speak Your Mind Campaign” led by United for Global Mental Health.
“The Speak Your Mind Campaign is intended to raise the platform for mental health by engaging world leaders and policy makers to contribute more to improving mental health,” Dossen asserted.
“The conference is also about addressing stigma and discrimination against persons with mental illness and giving the voices to persons with lived experience,” Dossen said
The head of the Carter Center Mental Health Program said the first part of the event which will be attended by representatives from CFUH and LICORMH will focus on what exactly the campaign against stigma and discrimination has done over the years and come out with new strategies.
“The conference is also intended to empower campaign leaders on mental health to become better advocates in terms of engaging policy makers and stakeholders to support and fight stigma against mental health,” the head Carter Center Mental Health Program mentioned.
As part of the conference, Dossen emphasized that there will be high-level panel meeting attended by representatives from the Carter Center Mental Health Program and others will focus on planning and strategies, he pointed out “it will involve lot of partners supporting mental health initiative by coming together and brainstorming on how to develop more effective strategies”.
This part of the event Dossen mentioned is being organized by ‘Time for Change’ a UK based organization, Basic Rights, based in Kenya and Christian Blinden Mission, an international Christian development organization committed to improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in the poorest communities of the world.
“It will focus mainly on anti-stigma strategies and inviting partners, journalists and persons with lived experience will have the time to talk about the challenges that persons with mental health issue face including the stigma they go through, the barrels to accessing treatment in their respective countries,” Dossen added.
He stressed that the conference will help to put together a tool kit to fight stigma.
According to Dossen, the media plays a very significant role in creating awareness for people living with mental issues. As such, he said journalists from different countries around the world are also being invited to participate in the conference.
“They will talk about the state of affairs of mental health issues in their respective countries, the challenges they faced in reporting on mental health issues” Dossen said.
Dossen further said the Liberian delegates will also have the opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills and be able to apply the requisite tool to better fight mental health stigma in the country and raise awareness against discrimination.
Dossen maintained that it was important that some Liberian journalists from the MHRN were trained by his organization to report on mental health issues in the country noting everything associated with mental illness is stigmatizing. Dossen noted “journalists reporting on mental health issue are being stigmatized and refer to as ‘crazy people journalists while mental health clinicians are being called crazy people doctors”.
“The MHRN is key to advancing the advocacy work of the mental health in the country”.
At least Dossen admitted that these journalists now have the basic knowledge on how to report on mental health conditions with accuracy and high level of sensitivity adding “stigma on mental illness in Liberia is a serious concern and we cannot stop creating awareness”.
He further emphasized that the conference is not one of those things that are done for people without them being involve, noting “the event is for us, by us and with us”.
For his part, Bill Jallah, the president of CFUH said the gathering was initially plan for 2019 and meant to review as a global community what was accomplished during the ‘Speak Your Mind Campaign’ and push forward.
During the planning in 2019, Jallah said it was discussed how mental health can be capture in the universal health coverage adding “the conference in Kenya will focus on how governments around the world can invest in mental health”.
“We planned in 2019 to be able to engage stakeholders, governments and policy makers to campaign for people suffering from mental health problems in the respective countries.
In the past, Jallah explained that governments have not thought on mental health as part of the essential package of health services stressing “now is the time”.
Jallah maintained that very little progress has been achieved in the 2016-2021 Mental Health Strategy Plan of Liberia, stressing “lot of things were planned in the strategic plan but were not achieve because of funding challenges”.
At the close of the conference, Jallah stressed that countries that are connected with United Global Mental Health and represented their individual countries will begin to engage the government to prioritize mental health.
Liberia mental health system is faced with many challenges, including low budgetary support from national government, the procurement of essential psychotropic drugs for persons living with mental disorders and for those living in recovery and limited withholding units.
Liberia participation in this conference will serve as an opportunity for the country to make a case to her global partners for more support to mental health initiatives in a country devastated by years of civil crisis.

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