The increasing number of mentally ill persons in Liberia is a cause for concern as the acting Director of the Mental Health Unit at the Ministry of Health (MOH), Angie Tarr-Nyankoon, stresses that the medical condition is a huge burden that must be attended to.
Speaking at a two-day Mental Health 5th quarterly meeting held in Monrovia over the weekend, Tarr-Nyankoon said there is a need that the National Legislature passes into law the mental health bill. “The Mental Health Act was drafted by the Ministry of Health since 2009 and is lying in committee room at the National Legislature for several years awaiting passage. The passage of the Act will enable them advocate for the voiceless and those that are suffering from mental illnesses across the country, as it is a huge burden,” she noted. The Health Ministry official indicated that Dr. Coleman who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health has communicated with the Ministry so that they can do a presentation at the Legislature on the subject. According to her, there is no budget line for mental health, adding, “We have been advocating that there should be a budget line for mental health, and we want the mental health bill to be enacted into law.” She furthered that there would be no health without mental health because it is very crucial especially when the country has just come from a 14-year civil crisis coupled with the recent Ebola outbreak that left many people traumatized. In addition, the acting Director noted that the Ministry has crafted a mental health policy and strategic plan that has about eight objectives, some of which call for training of more mental health workers; establishment of a modern mental health hospital, as it was only a smaller portion of mentally ill people that are seen on the streets. “We need to have a bigger hospital that we can have people admitted and drugs available for them; as well as provide training for students who will be rotated,” she said. The two days meeting brought together 168 mental health clinicians from across the country to have an input on the policy and strategic plan drafted by the Ministry of Health and partners. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative at the meeting, Dr. Alex Gasasira welcomed the decision of the Health Ministry to undertake such an initiative aimed at improving the gap created in the mental health area. Gasasira said a lot of work has been done in the area of mental health survey and in several other areas of support being provided and will look forward to implementing the policy and the strategic plan.