A Mental Health Workshop

Documentary, Mercy Ships, portrait
Unfortunately towards the end of the field service you discover that there are aspects of the work that Mercy Ships does that are seldom reported and that you haven’t had time to cover properly. I was asked to photograph the last day of a Mental Health Workshop and in researching what the Mental Health Program was about found the summary of the objectives of the team from 6 months ago.
I think it’s a very interesting aspect of healthcare contrasting with the very obvious removals of benign tumours and other physical operations that Mercy Ships is primarily there for.
Here is the executive summary:
“Togo is listed among the world’s poorest countries, but continues to improve developmentally.The country of six million people currently ranks 159 out of 182 countries, according to the 2009 UN Human Development Index. Poverty remains a problem as almost 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Access to quality health care is still limited for most citizens. There are only 225 physicians in the country, or less than one per 10,000 people. Comparatively, in the U.S., there are 26 doctors for every 10,000 people. Specialty care, such as mental health, is even more limited.
Togo is currently striving to improve the mental health care capacity. Mercy Ships intends to assist in this improvement through partnerships with the National Mental Health Coordinator and two Togolese neuropsychiatrists. The mental health team plans to utilize existing primary health care services and community organizations to increase capacity to assist the mental health needs of adults, children, and families.
In collaboration with Professor Grunitzky, Dr. Gaba, and Dr. Dassa, Mercy Ships will provide a mental health nurse/trainer and an interpreter during its service in Togo from February through August 2010. The Mercy Ships trainer will train 30 health care workers during the six-month field service. The primary training will occur over ten days of training, one day a week for ten weeks. Mercy Ships will also train a total of 60 health care professionals from hospitals and clinics in Lome and the surrounding provinces in two separate three-day seminars. The goal is to increase awareness of mental health diseases, and improve diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and counselling skills. Additional activities will include patient assessment and referrals for severe cases.
These cases include those patients requiring more than basic counselling, changes in life skills or social support, and/or medication. Training for a total of 60 church leaders will take place in two separate workshops (30 participants each). The sessions will take place two days a week over a period of two months (18 days) to increase proficiency at recognition, support, and proper patient referral. The sessions also include instruction in training of trainers so that the indigenous leaders can multiply the model.
Additionally, the mental health team will offer two distinct workshops for 50 teachers and 50 social workers. During each three-day event, the goal will be to improve awareness and identification of, and counselling/treatment for mental health diseases and problems. These participants will also learn how to refer severe cases to appropriate medical facilities. Counselling and training for 50 corrections officers and prison workers and 50 military leaders will take place during two three-day workshops.
The goal is to increase awareness of mental health and illness, and anger and stress management training. The workshops will help participants better understand, identify, and be sensitive towards mental health sufferers. In addition, due to high levels of stress accompanying these positions, the mental health team is prepared to provide training for prison workers and corrections officers in partnership with Pastor Martin Anani, the President of Prison Fellowship, Togo.
The training for military leaders is being developed at the request of Dr. Dassa, a well-qualified, critical incident stress management provider, and in collaboration with Colonel Baton Bineh. Many children can benefit from trauma healing; not just children impacted by war.
Mercy Ships mental health team will offer a five-day children’s camp to provide counselling for 50 children and training for childcare workers. This camp lays the groundwork for children to know how to express and heal their emotions in a safe environment, and to educate them on basic abuse and neglect.”
These photographs are the children on the last day of the camp. Many come from broken homes and have suffered abuse in one form or another.

If I ever come back to work with Mercy Ships in the future, then I think this is something I’d like to explore more. I have no doubt many of these children have interesting and probably disturbing stories to tell…


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