SUCCEED Africa Sierra Leone (SL) co-hosted the 2022 Sierra Leone Annual Mental Health Conference. For the first time, the SUCCEED SL team is co-hosting the annual conference, which is also the 9th Annual Mental Health Conference.
This year’s conference was held in Kabala, the capital city of Koinadugu District, on the 16th and 17th of November 2022, in the Koinadugu District Council Hall.
The National Mental Health Conferences have been held annually thanks to the Sierra Leone Mental Health Coalition’s years-long partnerships with state and non-state organizations.
The subject of the 2022 Conference, “Creating Hope Through Action: Making Mental Health and Well-Being a National Priority” was inspired by the theme of World Mental Health Day, held on October 10, 2022.
Opening the conference, PC Gbawuru Mansaray the 3rd, the Paramount Chief of Wara Wara Yagala chiefdom, expressed hope in addressing the difficulties posed by mental health in Kabala and the Koinadugu District in general. “Holding the conference in Kabala demonstrates the dedication of all stakeholders in mental health to reducing the spread of mental illness in Sierra Leone,” he added, noting that the city has historically been subject to strong superstition and traditional healing practices.
SUCCEED Sierra Leone Country Manager Shaza Dous described the conference as a benchmark for defending the human rights of individuals living with psychosocial disabilities across the country. She thanked the Mental Health Coalition for their participation and collaboration with SUCCEED Sierra Leone during this year’s conference. She explained the program’s goal of examining ways to provide care and empowerment at the local level through collaborative efforts.
The SUCCEED SL team spent a significant amount of time at the conference spreading the word about SUCCEED’s work in Sierra Leone and Sub-Saharan Africa in general. This was accomplished through group projects and participatory presentations with other conference attendees during conference activities. The SUCCEED SL Research Lead, Abraham Ishka Jimmy, led a group breakout session with a presentation on SUCCEED’s work on Mental Health.
Many conference attendees wanted to know when SUCCEED would cover the entire country rather than just Freetown and Makeni. Mr. Jimmy responded that SUCCEED’s operations are currently limited to studying Makeni and Freetown. However, there is room for replication of findings in other parts of the country based on best practices. SUCCEED, he says, focuses on people with psychosocial disabilities because they are the best able to define their own needs. “In Africa, SUCCEED is co-producing the design and evaluation of community-based interventions for people with psychosis,” he explained.
The CEO of the Sierra Leone Mental Health Coalition lauded the SUCCEED work led by Dr. Rebecca Esliker. “Dr. Esliker is working tirelessly to improve Sierra Leone’s mental health,” he said.
During her presentation, Dr Rebecca Esliker mentioned that SUCCEED is a 6-year research program consortium grant awarded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
SUCCEED aims at building evidence on “What Works” for psychosocial disabilities and well-being in four countries (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Malawi). The program began in May 2020 and has three distinct workstreams; Research, Capacity-building, and Uptake and Communication. The conference is also a platform for raising awareness of the operations of SUCCEED in Sierra Leone.