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Carter Center praises Liberia's expansion of mental health care

Liberia Minister of Health Walter Gwenigale (right) presents a diploma to a graduate of The Carter Center’s Post-Basic Mental Health Training Program. The third class of locally trained and credentialed mental health clinicians graduated this month. Photo courtesy of The Carter Center.

The Carter Center's Mental Health Liberia Program, in partnership with the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, announces that efforts to build a sustainable mental health care system have reached an important milestone with 14 out of 15 counties in Liberia now having access to at least one locally trained and credentialed mental health clinician. Only three years prior, Liberia had one psychiatrist in the entire country.

Today, the Carter Center's third class of 24 mental health clinicians — made up of Liberian nurses, physician assistants and nurse educators — graduates from the six-month, free Post-Basic Mental Health Training Program, held this term in Monrovia. These clinicians will join 39 others serving 3.8 million Liberians.

"Liberia's new mental health clinicians are pioneers in their field in Africa and the world," says Carter Center co-founder Rosalynn Carter. "I know that with their continued hard work, the people of Liberia will have an even brighter future as more citizens are able to get mental health services and contribute more fully to their communities."

"Liberia truly has showed its commitment to mental health care, which we hope will inspire other countries in Africa," says Janice Cooper, a native Liberian and project lead for the Carter Center's Mental Health Program in Liberia.

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. Prior to the establishment of the Carter Center's program in 2010, less than 1 percent of the Liberian population had access to appropriate mental health care, although the need for these services is much greater. This new workforce will help dramatically expand mental health care access to 70 percent of the country.

Clinicians trained through the program receive credentials from the Liberian government that allow them to return to their former positions in primary care clinics throughout the country to help integrate mental health services into the primary 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.

The Carter Center and its partners are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to train a total mental health workforce of 150 professionals. The program also supports, in partnership with the ministry, the formal credentialing of 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 is a not-for-profit organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University.

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