The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in collaboration with the Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Program (MHLAP) recently held a six-day training session for health workers on mental health.
Held at the Serrekunda General Hospital in Kanifing, the training was funded by the British High Commission.
Mrs. Margaret Gomez, the chief-nursing-officer of the hospital told the gathering that in The Gambia, the current prevalence rate of mental distress, including depression and substance abuse is about 20% of the population.
According to her, an estimated 90,000 and 118,000 people, including those in our homes and offices have some form of psychological distress.
"The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is currently sponsoring five students pursuing degree programmes in mental health at the American International University West Africa so as to address the human resource gaps in the area of mental health".
She said her ministry is very much aware of the fact that it takes more than 1 psychiatric hospital to cater for the needs of a population of nearly 2 million in the area of mental health, especially those at the community level.
For his part, David Morley, the British High Commissioner to The Gambia lauded the organisers, as according to him, it's a good investment as mental health is everybody's concern.
While urging the participants to make good use of the knowledge gained from the training and share it with their colleagues, he said, they will continue to support the health sector.
Modou Njai, director of health promotion and education, explained that mental health is a central pillar in the attainment of a healthy population.
He said the rational behind the session, is the promotion of the well-being of the people, the prevention of psychosocial distress and the treatment and rehabilitation of those affected by mental health disorders.
He said the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, through the directorate of health promotion and education will continue to work with interested partners, to achieve the three components of health, namely mental, physical and social wellbeing.
Momodou Gassama, who represented WHO Country Office, expressed delight at the gesture.
Dawda Samba, country facilitator for mental health, said the primary focus of the training is to build the capacity of health workers, so as to help people living with mental health at the community level.