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West African Mental Health ready for transformation!

Two people during official presentation, handing over a document labelled 'CBM'
Dr S Nkomo DaGama (left) giving the French version of the mhGAP Intervention Guidelines and a numeric version of the adaptation workshop results and tools to Dr Souleymane Sanou, General Secretary of Ministry of Health of Burkina Faso

Mental health has been a neglected area for many years in Africa. As CBM scales up mental health programmes in West Africa with its partners, 20 mental health leaders from five French-speaking countries met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in June 2013. They spent three days preparing the evidence-based background materials needed to build good quality, accessible services for all in the region.

Lack of access to mental health care

There is a quiet revolution happening in West Africa as countries reform their mental health services, bringing them more into line with international standards and improving access to care.

At present, 85% of people in sub-Saharan countries do not have access to mental health care, and in keeping with our mission to improve the quality of life of the most marginalised people, CBM is working with local partners to address this injustice.

Regional Workshop for Adaptation of WHO Mental Health Guidelines

Approx 30 people gathered in a hotel forecourt ©CBM
All participants during official presentation of the French version of the mhGAP Intervention Guidelines and of the adaptation workshop results
CBM has a long-standing partnership with the WHO, and now has good experience in rolling out services using their evidence-based mhGAP guidelines. The first step to making services appropriate for different cultures is to adapt these guidelines to local contexts so that the care offered meets local needs. This has already been done in several English-speaking countries where we work - Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Ghana for example.

Between the 11 and 13 June, in collaboration with the Government of Burkina Faso and WHO, CBM invited leaders in mental health from the Francophone countries in West Africa to meet in Ouagadougou to review the mhGAP Intervention Guidelines and adapt them to be appropriate for their countries.

CBM has already translated all the mhGAP Training Materials, and we also included relevant adaptation of these.  The meeting included at least two senior mental health leaders from Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Niger and Burkina Faso, as well as service users and other stakeholders in Burkina Faso.

Building networks

As well as the technical work, this meeting was also a great opportunity to share experiences, and build a network of people in the sub-Region who are motivated to transform the lives of people in their countries.

Now they have the tools to do this, and CBM is ready to keep working together with WHO and local partners to see positive change in access to good quality services and improved human rights in these countries.

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