National Authorities and Partners Join Forces for World Mental Health Day in Niger

Published Date: 
Tue, 10/22/2019 - 17:00
Country: 
Niger

Niamey – On the occasion of World Mental Health Day last Thursday (10/10), the National Mental Health Programme, IOM and partners working in the field of mental healthcare organized an awareness-raising day to discuss how to improve mental healthcare services in Niger.

Mental health is an essential and inseparable part of an individual’s overall health, but according to the Ministry of Public Health in Niger, is often not enough considered in terms of public health.

The stigma associated with mental health disorders in Niger, along with the lack of advocacy and prevention activities in schools, workplaces and at home, often leads to the exclusion of people with mental illness from society.

World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October every year, provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, the current needs, and ways of improving the quality of life of people living with mental illnesses.

The incomplete implementation or lack of policies, plans, programmes and legislation related to mental health, and the insufficient funding and interest for mental health in the country, has driven national partners working on mental health to plea with national authorities for support.

Currently, mental healthcare is not formally integrated into general healthcare and less than 50% of the country’s regions are covered by mental health practitioners. Seeing the insufficient mental health services available in the country and the high costs of treatment, the forum was an opportunity for technical partners to advocate for increased funds for mental healthcare.

As the lead of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Working Group in Niger, Italian NGO Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), organized various awareness-raising activities in Niamey, with IOM’s support, in the framework of the Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism funded by the European Union.

“People need to know that there is proper psychosocial support available for them if they ever need it and it’s our responsibility to make sure this support is available for everyone,” said doctor Yamien Ibrahim, Deputy Coordinator of the National Programme for Mental Health. “Not only is psychosocial assistance needed in difficult times, but it can also help prevent difficult times to begin with.”

The objectives of the outreach activities organized were to raise awareness about MHPSS among local community members, explain referral mechanisms, present the available services and promote general well-being. To spark the interest of community members, multiple stands conveniently located and divided by different themes were set up for the day.

“Many of the migrants arriving at IOM’s transit centers in Niger have had very difficult journeys and bad experiences on their route. Through MHPSS activities, they find ways to process their experiences which improves their well-being,” said Barbara Rijks, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger. “Mental health should be considered a priority for one’s health.”

After the opening ceremony held in the presence of representatives from the Ministry of Public Health in Niamey, a short play was organized around the theme of mental health to draw the attention of both the authorities and the public to the importance of MHPSS for the health and well-being of all individuals.

“I find it very useful to organize events like this one,” said Mariama, a third-year psychology student in Niamey. “I learned a lot today by interacting with professional psychologists and by observing them at work. It’s important to remove the stigma attached to mental illness and to let people know that it’s ok to ask for help.”

For more information, please contact Monica Chiriac at IOM Niger at Tel: +227 8931 8764, Email: mchiriac@iom.int.