Source: World Health Organization (WHO) - Nigeria |

Strengthening mental health services in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states through primary health care integration

The displacement of communities, coupled with the trauma of conflict and violence, has led to a heightened demand for mental health support

ABUJA, Nigeria, April 22, 2024/APO Group/ --

In the midst of humanitarian crises, the mental health needs of displaced and underserved populations often go overlooked. 

Recognizing this gap, the World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with the governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states (BAY), to take proactive steps to equip local healthcare workers with skills needed to support the vulnerable populations residing in the region grappling with mental health challenges due to prolonged humanitarian crisis.

The displacement of communities, coupled with the trauma of conflict and violence, has led to a heightened demand for mental health support. 

Identifying the urgency of the situation, WHO, with funding from the the European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), has launched initiatives to build the capacity of local healthcare workers in providing a comprehensive mental health care. 

Through targeted training program, 240 primary healthcare clinicians, including medical doctors, nurses, midwives, and community health extension workers (CHEWs),  were empowered to provide basic mental health care across 142 Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) across the 65 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the BAY States.

The PHC approach is a strategic tactic encompassing promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care. The healthcare workers were equpped with skills to provide basic counselling, reduce stigma, and raise awareness about acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other significant emotional or medically unexplained complaints. They are also capable of offering care and treatment to patients with moderate to severe depression, self-harm or suicidal tendencies, dementia, and alcohol and drug use disorders.

This integration ensures that mental health care is not treated as a separate entity but rather as an integral part of the overall health care delivery services.

Fasuma Mohammed, a health worker from Karasuwa LGA, Yobe State, said she has directly benefitted from WHO’s mental health care training enabling her to make meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by displacement and conflict residing in her community. 

As a health worker, Fasuma said she had witnessed first-hand impact of displacement and trauma on the well-being of individuals and families residing within her community.

“Before the training, I felt ill-equipped to address the complex mental health issues needed by the patient. But armed with this new knowledge, I have begun integrating mental health screenings mental healthcare and psychosocial support at my health facility, she said. 

Fasuma also plays a key role in raising awareness about mental health issues and reducing stigma through community sensitization and knowledge sharing with colleagues. 

“Mental health is an integral part of the well-being and WHO is committed to providing mental healthcare in hard-to-reach and inaccessible settlements. 

This initiative is the first of its kind in the BAY states  and aims to enhance the capabilities of clinicians in assessing, treating, and referring mental health disorders at an early stage.  WHO will continue to work closely with the host governments to help bridge the gaps in early identification and treatment of mental health issues among individuals who are exposed to poverty, violence, disability, and inequality, said Dr Kumshida Yakubu Balami, the WHO's Interim Emergency Manager for Northeast Nigeria.

This intervention is one of the five strategic priorities in the WHO-Nigeria Country Cooperation Strategy (CCSIV) towards universal health coverage (UHC) and managing health emergencies.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) - Nigeria.