The Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh has launched the presidential taskforce on mental health on behalf of President Bio.

In his statement the Vice President reiterated the importance of the health sector and how the government has taken the issue of health into high esteem to making sure that every sierra Leonean gets a better health status.

This morning I launched the Sierra Leone Presidential Taskforce on Mental Health on behalf of President Bio. I talked about my own journey, and living through a civil war in Sierra Leone and then working in some of the most destabilised and fragile contexts in the world as part of UN Peacekeeping Missions on completion of my PhD. I am only too aware of the traumatic events Sierra Leone has witnessed historically and in recent years, including the war, Ebola, the mudslide, the fuel tanker explosion, and how these can impact mental health.

I noted Government’s successes in addressing mental health issues, including the active steps we have taken to repeal and replace the 1902 Lunacy Act with modern mental health legislation that is client-centred, contextually and culturally appropriate, which meets or exceeds all international best practices as a priority. In doing so, I congratulated the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and Partners in Health for their investments in the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital which have transformed patient care, and I recognised Dr Eze and Dr Jalloh and others for their tremendous efforts which led to the psychiatry residency programme being accredited by the West African College of Physicians. For the first time in our history, Sierra Leone is now training its own psychiatrists. I stated Government’s commitment to increasing mental health workers and access to mental health services across the country.

However, I also noted that addressing mental health issues cannot be done by the health sector alone, it requires a multi-sectoral approach. This is why His Excellency Julius Maada Bio instructed me to constitute an inter-ministerial Taskforce on Mental Health. I chaired the Mental Health Taskforce’s maiden meeting last week to discuss how we integrate mental health across the life stages and across the sectors and identify priority areas for intervention. I noted that mental health action needs to be taken across health, education, social welfare, labour and even the productive sectors. With a growing youth population, we need to increase jobs nationwide – unemployment is a risk factor for mental illness.

In closing, I informed the floor that the Taskforce will be overseeing the design of a National Multisectoral 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 said.

The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Austin Demby expressed satisfaction over the launch and he maintained that, it may boost the sector greatly, as he maintained that “Health is a complete state of physical mental wellbeing and not just the absence of disease and infirmity”