Monrovia — As part of effort to revamp the health sector, the Carter Center, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, over the weekend graduated 19 mental health clinicians.
The 19 child and adolescent mental health clinicians, were trained through the Carter Center and Ministry of Health's Post Basic Mental Health Training program with funding from the government of Japan, through the World Bank.
Serving as keynote speaker, the Chief Executive Officer of the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital, Dr. Jerry F. Brown, said mental illness accounts for about one-third of the world's disability, resulting in enormous personal suffering and socio-economic cost. Dr. Brown added that mental illness is the pandemic of the 21st century and will be the next major global health challenge.
"Severe mental health problems including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia and substance use disorders affect all age groups and occur in all countries, of which Liberia is no exception," he said.
According to Dr. Brown, statistical data of the World Health Organization (WHO) on mental health revealed that 20 percent of the world's children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems, while 50 percent of mental disorders began before the age of 14.
"It is estimated that 350 million individuals experience depression annually. On the average, it takes almost 10 years to obtain treatment after symptoms of depressed mood begin and two-thirds of depressed individuals never receive adequate care. Mental health disorders are the most common diseases of childhood, more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined," Brown noted.
He said it is estimated that about 800,000 people worldwide commit suicide every year due to mental illness especially between the ages of 15 to 29 years.
"Between 10 to 20 million depressed individuals attempt suicide every year and approximately one million complete suicide. In response to these alarming circumstances, in 2016, WHO declared depression to be the leading cause of disability worldwide," he noted.
Dr. Brown also admonished the graduates to help integrate mental health services into the larger health-care system.
"We want to urge you to help integrate mental health services into the larger health-care system. Use the knowledge acquire to impact change and bring hope to the people and community you serve," Dr. Brown urged the graduates.
On behalf of the Carter Center, Ambassador Jordan Ryan admonished the graduates to demonstrate their commitment to creating a healthier future for the next generations.
"The new knowledge and abilities you have gained will allow you to make crucial contributions to Liberia's continued and important work in providing critical mental health and substance use services," Ambassador Ryan noted.
For his part, the dux, Stephen W. Picka, called on the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health, to provide more budgetary support to the mental health services in the country.
Picka recommended to the government to include mental health in its national curriculum to be taught as a separate course in universities, colleges and other tertiary institutions.
"The government should provide more scholarship opportunities for trained mental health clinicians to seek advanced and specialized training in mental health," he said.