Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Gambia: Mental Health Report Highlights Gambia's Achievements

Gambia: Mental Health Report Highlights Gambia's Achievements

Ahead of the World Mental Health Day, celebrated on October 10th every year, the findings of the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy program (MHLAP) Gambia, has revelaed enormous strides the Government of the Gambia through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has made on mental health treatment and delivery.

Below is the rest of the findings of the Mental Health Report, prepared by Dawda Samba, country facilitator, Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Programme Gambia.

Drugs induced psychosis accounted for 48% of admissions in 2010. Since the Government of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh launched the definitive no to drugs and corruption, the diagnostic rate of mental illnesses caused by drugs has dropped to levels where schizophrenia and affective disorders are now the major diagnosis at the outpatient levels. The MhLAP assures the president that we shall continue working with the NDEA and the MOH/SW to fight against drugs.

The opening of a new psychiatric hospital in February 2009 call Tanka Tanka Psychiatric hospital is a giant step in improving mental health services in the Gambia. The New hospital is spacious, well ventilated rooms for the patients, a pharmacy, recreational facilities, separated rooms for male and females, standardized wards for patients and an occupational therapy room.

The President of the Republic of the Gambia donated an ambulance to the Tanka Tanka psychiatric hospital in August 2011. This ambulance eases the referral system between the psychiatric hospital and RVTH The Health Ministry because of the enormous interest in Non communicable diseases including mental health, established the Health Promotion and Education Directorate which includes a Mental Health Coordination Unit. This office coordinates all mental health programs in the country but as well coordinate the work of all partners in mental health. The Directorate has been very helpful to MHLAP activities. This is a clear indication of the interest he has in improving mental health services in The Gambia. These efforts were registered by the health ministry due to the support and interest the President of the Republic has in Non-Communicable Diseases and most importantly mental health.

Mental health financing have doubled according to our estimates from 2007 (D830,000.00) to 2009 (D1,560,000.00). This has been a tremendous improvement and is surely having a positive impact on mental health services. The MOH/SW is currently sponsoring 5 students to study Mental Health at the American International University West Africa. These are geared towards strengthening the mental health services in the country. The MOH/SW has conducted series of capacity building trainings on mental health to health staff country-wide so that services can also be accessed even in the remote part of the Gambia. In addition, traditional healers have been trained on basic mental health care and as well to discourage the physical restrain of patients.

The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education has established Special Needs unit which oversees the implementation of the education policy and building the capacities of people with disabilities. The Unit also develops modules to have people with disabilities being incorporated in the general education system. We commend the Basic and Secondary ministry for this stride towards meeting the needs of the differentially able.

In March 2007 the MOH/SW and the WHO Gambia drafted a ten-year National Mental Health Policy (NMHP) and strategic plan. The policy speaks of service development, organizational building, financing, medicine, advocacy, multi-sectoral collaboration, capacity building, human rights and decentralization of services. The new health promotion directorate is currently working on to review the existing policy and strategy on mental health as well as developing a National Health Promotion Policy and Strategic Plan In 2011 the lunatics detention act underwent a preliminary review and is currently being discussed as well.

On behalf of people with mental health problems, we commend the government and encourage them to keep the pace. We are in the right tract and well ahead of most West African countries in the areas of Mental Health. Whiles we celebrate the day, we do also celebrate your achievements.

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