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123 Mental Health Clinicians Promoting Mental Health in Communities Across Liberia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paige Rohe, The Carter Center, prohe@emory.edu, +1-404-420-5129

ATLANTA…The Carter Center's Mental Health Program in Liberia, in partnership with the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, congratulates the newest, sixth class of 23 clinicians who will help continue to improve access to much needed mental health services in Liberia. These graduates join 100 previously trained and credentialed local mental health clinicians practicing in all 15 counties in Liberia, working largely in primary care clinics and hospitals.

Liberia is on target to reach its goal of expanding access to mental health care to 70 percent of the population within the next few years. Previously, this nation of 3.8 million had one psychiatrist to meet the needs of at least 300,000 Liberians suffering from mental illness.

"Liberia has made great progress in building a brighter future for its citizens by investing in mental health, an issue affecting many worldwide," said former First Lady of the United States and Carter Center Co-founder Rosalynn Carter.

The new graduates — made up of Liberian nurses, physician assistants, and nurse educators — completed the Carter Center's six-month, free Post-Basic Mental Health Training Program held this term in Gbarnga, Bong County, at the Phebe School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Graduates of the Carter Center program take a test to receive credentials from the Liberian Board of Nursing and Midwifery and the Liberia Physician Assistants Association, allowing them to return to their former mid-level positions in primary care clinics as mental health specialists who can help integrate mental health services into the larger health care system. Some of the graduates are educators and will return to university classrooms to ensure the next generation of primary care workers will be better prepared to address mental health problems.

Program alumni have made a lasting impact in their communities by establishing new services at the ground level. Clinicians have opened eight clinical practices in prisons systems, trained nurse midwives to screen for maternal depression, treated refugees from the Ivory Coast conflict, and supported the nation's first mental health consumer organization.

While every Liberian county now has at least three mental health clinicians, there remains the need for building up services in places with immense treatment gaps. The largest concentration of Carter Center-trained clinicians, 36, serves a population of more than 500,000 in Montserrado County, where the capital, Monrovia, is located. Outside Montserrado, the average number of mental health clinicians per county is six. Remote counties like Sinoe and Grand Gedeh have 10 clinicians, Maryland, 8, and Lofa and Rivergee, 7, respectively.

"With every group of clinicians trained, there is a special excitement around how they will contribute to gaps in the still emerging mental health system," said Dr. Janice Cooper, a native Liberian and project lead for the Carter Center's mental health initiative in Liberia. "This sixth graduating class includes clinicians who will be returning to hard-to-reach rural clinics as in the past, but also clinics in the highly-populated, poor, urban areas like Matadi and Old Road in Sinkor, Monrovia. It also includes the largest portion of male clinicians we have trained in one class (47 percent)."

The psychological impact of over a decade of civil conflict, which ended in 2003, has contributed to a mental health crisis in Liberia, intensified by: misconceptions, stigma, and resulting discrimination surrounding mental illnesses; lack of mental health care training for health professionals; and inadequate supplies of necessary medications.

The Carter Center and its partners are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to train a total of 150 mental health clinicians. The Center also supports, in partnership with the ministry, efforts to standardize psychosocial credentialing for 300 other health workers who previously received some minimal mental health training from nongovernmental organizations working in the country immediately after the war.

The Carter Center's Mental Health Program in Liberia is supported by contributions from individuals, foundations, governments, and corporations. The Center's partnerships include the John P. Hussman Foundation, which aims to provide life-changing assistance through medical research, education, and direct aid to vulnerable individuals with urgent needs or significant disabilities. The Hussman Foundation's four-year commitment to the Mental Health Program in Liberia is critical to the program's success.

Editor's Note:

Learn more about the Carter Center's mental health work in Liberia >

Meet Margaret Ballah: On the Frontlines of Mental Health Care in Liberia >

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"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

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