“We have won the war”: Liberia’s newest youth mental health clinicians celebrate big milestone
By Sadie Bazur-Leidy
Senior Program Associate
Global Behavioral Health at The Carter Center
When the latest group of mental health clinicians graduated from training, they chose the name A Du Tȗ — “we have won the war” in Grebo, a local language — as inspiration as they seek to transform mental health in Liberia.
The program to train child and adolescent mental health clinicians is part of The Carter Center’s ongoing efforts since 2010 to scale up the mental health services system in post-conflict Liberia — also part of former First Lady of the United States Rosalynn Carter’s vision for improving the lives of people with mental illnesses and their families.
The clinicians first convened at the Deanna Kay Isaacson School of Midwifery in Grand Gedeh County on the southeastern edge of Liberia to kick off six months of training in January 2020. But Covid-19 would change things.
Just two months after their arrival on campus, the pandemic temporarily shuttered the program and the trainees, who have backgrounds in nursing, midwifery and as physicians’ assistants, returned to the nine counties they called home.
When training resumed in January 2021, all 20 trainees returned for refresher training and continuation of the curriculum, with the goal of later staffing schools and community-based facilities and providing mental health services to youth and their families across all 15 counties in Liberia.
“My stay in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, was an eye opener and career extension while pursuing my post-basic mental health training program,” said mental health clinician Samuel Davis. “The learning environment, the availability of resource materials and the supplies of needed tools to enhance learners competence were delivered on time.”
In May, the cohort earned a 100 percent pass rate in the State Board Exam for credentialing of the trainees, administered by the Liberian Board for Nursing and Midwifery.
At their June 2021 graduation, the group brought the number of clinicians focused on child and adolescent mental health in Liberia to 140, edging closer to the goal of 160 trained clinicians.
“You now join the group of heroes dedicated to the mental health of Liberia’s children and youth,” noted former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter in written congratulations to the cohort.
“In the age of COVID-19, the importance of providing these services to young people is more crucial than ever, and I commend you for devoting yourself to this cause,” Carter said.
2021 marks 50 years of advocacy by the former U.S. First Lady on behalf of people with mental health and substance use conditions. The center’s work in Liberia is one Carter said she is especially proud of and counts among her most significant achievements.
The California Community Foundation, a Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization, supported training of the latest cohort.
The Carter Center’s Mental Health Program is seeking funding to train the final cohort to meet the goal of 160 child and mental health clinicians posted in counties across the nation.
Sadie Bazur-Leidy is the senior program associate for the Liberia and Global Mental Health Program at The Carter Center where she designs, implements and evaluates global mental health activities, and works with partners to meet program goals. She holds a master’s degree in public health from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Macalester College.