What’s the key to rebuilding Liberian communities and igniting the country’s economic recovery in the wake of the devastation of the Ebola epidemic and civil war? Expanding mental health services, reported articles in Nature, Devex, StarAfrica and other outlets.
A new three-year, $3 million effort to expand mental health services in Liberia is being funded by the government of Japan through a World Bank-administered trust fund, reported Devex. “Developers of the project hope that an increased focus on mental health will help spur economic recovery and growth in the devastated region by helping build social capital and community trust, while fostering positive coping behaviors,” stated Devex. “A new squad of child mental health clinicians will be deployed to approximately 60 schools, while community-based interventions beyond Ebola-affected communities will be strengthened.”
“Some (Ebola-surviving) patients refuse to eat or leave their beds,” explained Nature. “Many blame themselves for contracting the disease. And those who return home are often barred from housing complexes or workplaces.”
“We’re still seeing anxiety, and people in survival mode,” a mental-health nurse with the non-profit International Medical Corps told Nature. “The majority of psychological problems are because the country is frozen, with nothing moving forward.”
The Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Bernice Dahn, put numbers to the scope of this new emergency that was demanding immediate action, reported StarAfrica. Due to the Ebola outbreak and years of civil war, Dahn told StarAfrica that “about 400,000 are suffering from mild mental illness, while 115,000 others have mental disorder.”
Dr. Richard Mollica, a mental health adviser for the project and director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, told Devex that these kinds of interventions should be the way of the future. “If you see a development project in a country that’s been through terrible poverty and violence, and there’s no mental health component, something is wrong with that project,” Mollica told Devex.
Can mental health services spur economic growth in Ebola-affected West Africa? (Devex, February 27, 2015)
Ebola’s mental-health wounds linger in Africa (Nature, March 3, 2015)
Liberia: Over 500,000 suffer mental illness due to war, Ebola-Official (StarAfrica, March 6, 2015)