Carter Center-Liberia in collaboration with the Press Union of Liberia has ended a two-day Anti-Stigma workshop for journalists in the country on how to report on people with mental illness. The workshop brought together journalists from all parts of Liberia.
Co-investigator and Representative of the Carter Center Mental Health program in Liberia, Dr. Janice L. Cooper, stressed the need for journalists to have adequate knowledge of mental illness issues in order to properly educate the public.
She said responsible reporting may help prevent stigma against people with mental illness and raise awareness about mental health issues. She also warned Liberians against stigmatizing people with mental illness in the society, saying, ‘’Mentally-ill people are not mentally incapacitated people; in fact, those people can make sound decisions and contributions to the country once they are cured and the necessary steps are taken.’’
Stressing that discrimination has negative effects on people with mental illness, she appealed to the Liberian media to create awareness for people with mental illness by educating the public against stigmatizing. Dr. Cooper said the main objective of the program is to train a sustainable and credentialed workforce of mental health clinicians, assist the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in establishing and implementing the country’s national health policy as well as conduct anti-stigma campaigns nationwide to improve public understanding of mental illnesses.
Also speaking at the workshop, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the director for mental health at the Ministry of Health, Angie Tarr- Nyakoon, said, there is limited mental health infrastructure in Liberia, including shortage of mental health medications.
When asked what the ministry is doing to get mentally-ill people off the streets of Monrovia, Madam Tarr-Nyakoon said plans were underway to address the problem shortly. But the reality on the grounds is that the authorities here seem to lack tangible actions in responding to mental health challenges across the country thus, leaving people with mental disabilities to roam the streets, posing threats to public safety.
Responding, the vice president for the Press Union of Liberia, JallahGrayfield, thanked the Carter Center for the collaboration and hoped for future collaborations between both institutions. –By Bridgett Milton – Editing by Jonathan Browne