By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The Vice President, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, has on the 16th May, 2023, launched the Sierra Leone Presidential Taskforce on Mental Health on behalf of President Julius Maada Bio.
During the launch, he made mention of the profound impact of historical and recent traumatic events, such as the war, Ebola outbreak, mudslide, and fuel tanker explosion, on mental health.
He acknowledged the Government’s strides in dealing with mental health, making reference to the repeal and replacement of the outdated 1902 Lunacy Act with modern legislation that prioritizes client-centered and culturally appropriate mental health practices, surpassing international standards.
Dr Juldeh Jalloh commended the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and Partners in Health for their investments in the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital, which , according to him, has revolutionized patient care.
He also recognized the outstanding contributions of Dr. Eze, Dr. Jalloh, and others whose efforts, he said, led to the accreditation of the psychiatry residency program by the West African College of Physicians, enabling Sierra Leone to train its own psychiatrists for the first time in history further expressing Government’s commitment to expand the mental health workforce and improve access to services nationwide.
Dr Juldeh Jalloh also noted that addressing mental health issues cannot be done by the health sector alone saying it requires a multi-sectoral approach.
He informed that such is why His Excellency Dr.Julius Maada Bio instructed him to constitute an inter-ministerial Taskforce on Mental Health disclosing how he chaired the Mental Health Taskforce’s maiden meeting last week to discuss how to integrate mental health across the life stages and across the sectors and identify priority areas for intervention.
The Vice President said he noted that mental health action needs to be taken across health, education, social welfare, labour and even the productive sectors adding that with a growing youth population, there is the need to increase jobs nationwide underscoring how unemployment is a risk factor for mental illness.
Dr Juldeh Jalloh informed that the Taskforce will be overseeing the design of a National Multi-Sectoral Strategic Plan for Mental Health that addresses mental illness across the life stages – one that is data-driven, focused on innovative strategies for early intervention and prevention, and addresses workforce development.
He emphasized that addressing mental health challenges requires a multi-sectoral approach extending beyond the healthcare sector.