Dr. Gail Stuart, President of the Annapolis Coalition Board of Directors, spent a week in March continuing her work with the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program to expand behavioral health workforce development in Liberia. The trip marks her fifth visit to the country since 2010 to refine the curriculum she developed to train general nurses to provide mental health care to those in Liberia recovering from the trauma of civil war. An outcome of this program was that 166 Mental Health Nurse Clinicians were trained to provide front-line mental health care in every county in Liberia.
More recently Dr. Stuart was asked to design another curriculum to train Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse Clinicians, to address the mental health needs of youth in the country due to the large number of children left orphaned by the Ebola outbreak. During the visit, an additional twenty-one clinicians specializing in child and adolescent mental health graduated from the training program, bringing the total to date to 40. These graduates will provide mental health and psychosocial care in schools, clinics and other child and youth-centered settings.
“Liberia is making a brighter future for all of its citizens by investing in the mental health of adults, children, and adolescents,” said former First Lady and Carter Center Co-founder Rosalynn Carter.
Liberia is on course 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 4.3 million had one psychiatrist to meet the needs of at least 300,000 Liberians suffering from mental illnesses.
“The Carter Center program graduates have provided life-changing mental health and psychosocial support services throughout Liberia, especially for those facing the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic,” said Dr. Bernice Dahn, Minister of Health in Liberia.
Since 2010, mental health clinicians trained by the Carter Center program have made a lasting impact in their communities by establishing new services at the ground level. Clinicians have opened 14 clinical practices in prison systems, trained nurse midwives to screen for maternal depression, treated refugees from the Ivory Coast conflict, supported the nation’s first mental health consumer organization, worked in Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) and provided psychosocial supports to individuals and families affected by the Ebola virus.
“With every group of clinicians trained, there is enthusiasm 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.
Learn more about the Carter Center, and its Mental Health in Liberia program, at its website.