NMHP orientates journalists on draft Mental Health Bill

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NMHP orientates journalists on draft Mental Health Bill
NMHP orientates journalists on draft Mental Health Bill

Africa-Press – Gambia. The National Mental Health Programme (NMHP) officials on Thursday, 22nd February 2024 had an orientation program with members of journalists, especially those on the health desk of different media houses – print, and electronic including bloggers on the draft Mental Health Bill.

The daylong orientation program was held at the CIAM conference Hall, Kanifing.

Mam Jarra Marega, Program Manager, National Mental Health Programme, Ministry of Health covered different topics in her presentation which included objectives, achievements, challenges, risks/threats, opportunities, and way forward.

She stated that the National Mental Health Programmecoordinates and facilitates all mental health activities within the Gambia.

The Program Manager defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his/her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his/her community.”

Mental health problems/conditions/disorders/illnesses, she said according to WHO 2019, are generally a wide range of conditions characterized by a composition of abnormal thoughts – thinking, perceptions, emotions (mood/affect), behavior, and relationships with others.

According to her, mental health conditions are the single largest cause of disabilities in the world, “Mental disorders are an international health concern that is gaining considerable attention,” while problems and solutions lie beyond the clinical areas.

She noted that there is a huge gap between the numbers of people affected and those receiving treatment when it comes to mental health services in The Gambia.

She said MH services in the country were decentralized in 2018, and back to centralization in 2020/2021.

“MH service delivery is composed of three components; Inpatient, outpatient, and community services. These components work collaboratively to provide quality and accessible MH services in The Gambia general public,” she explained.

She continued that In-patient treatment is not possible for rural patients and they must be managed in their communities.

On their achievements, Ma’am Marega outlined that in 2016, 5 MH nurses and a few general nurses were trained on mhGAP 1.0, Drafted and validated the MHPSS manual – SRN 6 months training on MHPSS, In February 2023, Reviewed and adopted the updated version of mhGap 2.0. Also, from 7th to 28th August 2023, they trained 84 healthcare workers on mhGAP 2.0 while from 22 Dec to Jan 13, 2024, they trained 105 CHNs.

Notwithstanding, their challenges included inadequate funds for planned MH activities, the high attrition rate of trained/skilled MH nurses; understaffing, a new MH bill not enacted; MH policy not being validated, and drug and substance use problems – no rehabilitation center/halfway homes. Also, need for different units e.g. child and adolescent MH, need for specialized MH personnel (psychiatrists, MH nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, counselors, social workers, etc.).

She emphasised the risks/threats to MH and these include the Lunatic’s detention act of 1917, inadequate budget allocation for the MH program, high attrition of trained, skilled, and resourceful staff, and limited research for evidence-based care.

Mr. Bakary Camara, the Matron at Tanka Tanka made a presentation on the Tanka Tanka services while AmadouJallow’s presentation was centered on an introduction to mental health and the role of media. Dr. Momodou Gassamaof WHO spoke extensively on the importance of journalists in reporting health issues while encouraging them to spend more time in reporting health-related matters for everyone to benefit.

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