19 March 2019

Liberia: 20 Journalism Students Trained in Mental Health Reporting

The Mental Health Reporters' Network, with support from The Carter Center (TCC) Mental Health Program in Liberia, has trained 20 students, who want to become journalist to report on issues of mental health in their respective communities, a release has said.

The participants were drawn from four Mass Communication departments' institutions in Monrovia to include the University of Liberia, African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) and United Methodist University (UMU) Mass Communication Departments as well as, the Peter Quaqua School of Journalism. According to the release, the three-day training was held recently in support of TCC's anti-stigma component of its mental health program.

It highlighted several topics to include Protecting the Identity of People Living with Mental Illness, Using the Social Media to Report on issues of Mental Health, Mental Health Policy and Legislation, Human Rights, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and Advocacy, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Vicarious Trauma, Common Mental Illness in Liberia, and How to Report on Mental Health related issues as a reporter. The students also listened to recovery stories from individuals, who suffered from mental illnesses, and how they have being able to live with their families during periods of relapse and recovery.

Wilfred Gwaikolo, TCC's Deputy Program Head, said the deputy providing a brief background on the organization activities in the country, said the organization started its mental health program in 2010.

Initially, Gwaikolo said TCC was focused on three key areas to include developing the mental health workforce, provide training for mid-level workers into health services and to developed community health workers, who will volunteer to identify cases and refer them to health facilities where they can get treatment.

Lately, he said the organization added another component which is the anti-stigma program. Gwaikolo indicated that adding the anti-stigma program is important for the provision of adequate education against the stigmatization of people living with mental illness.

"In Liberia, we have general perception; we feel that when these people are in that state [mental illness], there is nothing good they can do anymore," he added, "but we are here to change that perception and to make people understand that mental health conditions are like any other sickness that can be treated."

He urged the participants to take the knowledge back to their respective institutions and communities and serve as 'ambassadors' in creating awareness that will erase the negative perceptions in the society, about people living with mental illness.

Facilitators for the three days training included Florence Boffa Washington, the national mental health clinical coordinator, Bill S. Jallah and Sidney K. Flomo, president and vice president of the Cultivation for Users' Hope, Lucy Rose-Laurene Sherman, Social Media Blogger and Student at the Louise Arthur Grimes School of Law and John S. M. Yormie, acting director at the Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Others were Deddeh Sannoh, a Mental Health Clinician, Al-Varney Rogers and Zeze Ballah, members of the Mental Health Reporters' Network Washington encouraged the participants to make practical use of the knowledge gained as they returned to their various communities.

"We want for you to implement the various lessons taught; we want for you to be able to bridged that gap; we want for you to raise awareness," she said. "We want you to be able to provide that education to our people to break the stigma and discrimination that are so highly perpetrated in our society against persons living with mental illness," Washington said.

The national mental health clinical coordinator noted that persons living with mental illness and disabilities are humans and should not be stigmatized based on the conditions they faced.

Magdalene Saah, a Mass Communication student at the AMEU, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, said they [participants] were grateful to TCC Mental Health Program and the Mental Health Reporters' Network for affording them the opportunity to be part of the training.

Saah described the training as 'very useful and timely,' adding "the knowledge acquired will be used to the fullest in educating the public to considered people living with mental illness as human beings like themselves."

"We are going with a new mind [set] about people living with mental illness and to create the awareness and educate others that persons with mental illness should not stigmatize and discriminated," Saah said.

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