No fewer than 314 primary health care staff including Doctors, Nurses, Community Health Officers (CHOs), Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs), and Social Workers drawn from Primary Health Centers across the State took part in a mental health capacity-building training session organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Health for health workers at the Primary Health Care (PHC) level.

The participants were trained to recognise and manage common mental disorders like depression, anxiety, drug abuse, psychosis and stress as well as dealing with psychiatric emergencies like attempted self-harm and other forms of severe mental distress. The training modules also encompass the provision of guidelines on the care approach.

The training which was carried out under the Mental Health in Primary Care (MeHPriC) project of the Lagos State Government is geared towards integrating mental health services into the Lagos State Primary Health Care System as a transformative approach that addresses the holistic well-being of citizens.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the five days batched training exercise which was held between Monday 4th and Friday 8th September 2023, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye explained that the integration of mental health services in primary healthcare centres stands as a pivotal stride towards addressing the comprehensive healthcare needs of individuals.

He added that the approach acknowledges that physical and mental health are intertwined, stressing that providing holistic health care entails recognising and addressing mental health concerns within the community setting.

The Permanent Secretary stated that the benefits of the MeHPriC project encompass early identification of mental health concerns, timely intervention, improved patient outcomes and reduced stigma surrounding mental health issues. He noted that the sustainability and expansion of integrated health services at the primary care level hold the potential to create a profound impact on communities by offering accessible, effective and empathetic care to all individuals.

Addressing the trained health workers, Ogboye advised them to know their limitations and explore referral options while providing mental health care services in their facilities.

Speaking in the same vein, the Coordinator, Special Project and Lagos State Ministry of Health Desk Officer, Dr. Tolu Ajomale explained that the mental health training for health workers at the primary health care level was fashioned along the World Health Organization Mental Health Gap Action Programme Intervention Guide (mhGAP-IG) with focus on identification and management of depression, anxiety, epilepsy and substance abuse.

He added that as part of the training intervention delivery, participants are expected to appropriately identify and diagnose patients with depression, provide psychological intervention, prompt referral of severe cases to secondary and tertiary facilities, prescribe appropriate medication, identify medication side effects and appropriate remedies, provide psychoeducation and adherence support and provide mental health talks and advice.

Ajomale, who expressed delight at the level of knowledge gained by participants, disclosed that the pre and post-training knowledge assessment carried out on the participants is indicative that the knowledge gap on mental health has greatly been bridged.

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