Carter Center Congratulates Liberians on Passage of Landmark Mental Health Act
Atlanta, USA – The Carter Center congratulates Liberia on the passage of its first law to improve health care for people with mental illnesses and prevent discrimination against them.
The bill passed by the Liberia House of Representatives on May 24 protects people living with mental health disorders from discrimination and will give access to quality mental health care in all 15 counties.
The bill, which becomes law upon the President’s signature, also establishes, for the first time, oversight of mental health care through the Ministry of Health and creates a national advisory body on mental health issues.
The Mental Health Act also protects the property of people with mental health conditions. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is expected to sign it.
“The impact of this Mental Health Act to improve the health and lives of Liberians cannot be overstated,” said former U.S. First Lady and Carter Center Co-founder Rosalynn Carter.
“We have been honored to work closely with the Ministry of Health and our partners since 2010 to bolster the capacity of the health care professionals to address mental health issues.”
Previously, this nation of 4.3 million had one psychiatrist and a handful of mental health nurses to meet the needs of at least 300,000 Liberians suffering from mental illnesses. Now it has two psychiatrists and 206 mental health clinicians working in health and mental health settings and in communities throughout the country.
Since 2012, when a group of stakeholders met to draft the bill, advocates have been pushing for its passage. Recently when the bill came before the Senate, the country’s chief medical officer, Dr. Francis Kateh, health care leaders, professionals, advocates, and mental health service users testified urging its passage. President Sirleaf has repeatedly called on the Legislature to send her a mental health bill.
Since 2010, The Carter Center has worked with partners to train mental health clinicians to establish new services in communities. Clinicians have opened 14 clinical practices in prison systems, trained nurse midwives to screen for maternal depression, treated refugees from the Ivory Coast conflict, supported the nation’s first mental health consumer organization, worked in Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), and provided psychosocial supports to individuals and families affected by the Ebola virus.
Two classes of graduates specialized in child and adolescent mental health for Liberian youth, and seven schools now have clinicians in their clinics or have regular visits by mental health clinicians.