News @ JSI

Building Mental Health Resources in Disaster Response and Recovery

February 13, 2018

Mental health problems in Sierra Leone pose a high burden of developmental, emotional, and behavioral disorders not only in adults, but also in children and adolescents. The country's recent history includes a long civil war, the Ebola pandemic, and most recently, in 2017, a mudslide that killed more than 500 people. 

Yet, throughout Sierra Leone there is a considerable resource gap for diagnosing and treating mental health conditions; so the majority of those in need are unable to access appropriate care. To address this issue, initially with a particular focus on Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivors, JSI’s Advancing Partners & Communities project has supported the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) and other partners to build the capacity of the overall public health system to provide quality evidence-based mental health services at every level of care in a compassionate and nondiscriminatory manner. This effort is a part of the project’s mandate to improve the health and well-being of EVD survivors at all levels of the health system.

Through the program, 20 mental health nurses have been trained to facilitate referrals for victims in serious conditions including injuries, and provide follow up mental health across their respective districts. A recent article in The Lancet, Mental health nurses and disaster response in Sierra Leone, examines the role of the 20 new nurses in the aftermath of the Freetown mudslide. WHO has also highlighted the issue recently on its website in an article titled, Mental health is a critical component in disaster response and recovery.

The United States Agency for International Development-funded Advancing Partners & Communities project is working with the MOHS, World Health Organization King’s Sierra Leone Partnership, WHO, and the War Trauma Foundation to build the capacity of the mental health system in Sierra Leone.

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