Gambia: Mental Health Training for Health Workers Concludes in Farafenni

The Gambia, like many developing countries, experiences a high burden of mental and neurological disorders. Current national estimates suggest that about 13 - 20% of the Gambian population suffer some form of psychological distress.

The Gambia has only one mental health centre, (Tanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital) based in the Greater Banjul Area, providing mental health services to the population. Just like in many countries, in addition to the inadequate mental health services there is also shortage of trained human resource capacity at all levels of the national health care delivery system.

However, it must be noted that despite meager resources, the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare is providing mental health services at the community level through the Community Mental Health Team of the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital (RVTH).

In an attempt to bridge the mental health service gap at both community and health facility levels, the mhLAP Gambia, in collaboration with Elemental Wellbeing from the UK, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, WHO Country Office and the British High Commission in Banjul organised the THRIVE mental health training in 2 phases, with each phase of the training running for 6 complete days. The training, funded by the British High Commission, brought together health workers from different health facilities across the country.

The programme covered a wide range of issues; including recognition, management and treatment of common mental disorders in the country. It is expected to bridge the capacity gap as well as improving mental health services in the country. The training also provided participants with the requisite skills to provide basic mental health services at community level.Those trained are also equipped enough to conduct step-down training at the community level, with a view to preventing and reducing the incidences of mental illnesses, as well as promoting mental wellbeing in local populations.

Phase 1 of the training was held in Farafenni from January 1st to 6th 2013 and was attended by 15 health workers from 15 health facilities situated in the provincial communities across the country. These included Gambisara, Basse, Fatoto, Kwinella, Kerewan, Brikamaba, Bansang, Karantaba, Soma, Yorobawol, Japinni, BajaKunda, Kuntaur, Janjanbureh and Farafenni.

The participants were all provided with mental health manuals that they could use at the level of their facilities. Local and internationally renowned resource persons participated in the training.

This training is in line with the health policy objective of providing quality and affordable health services, including mental health, to the entire Gambian population.

Phase 2 of the training will be held from February 4th to 9th, targeting another 15 health facilities.

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