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Posted on Jul 27 2020 by Jo Lehmann

Mental health in Sierra Leone - one of our nurses shares his volunteering story 

After years of civil war followed by the deadly Ebola outbreak, the number of people affected by mental disorders in Sierra Leone is significant. There is only one mental health hospital for a population of more than six million, and less than 2% of those in need of mental health care are actually able to get it.

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One of St Andrew's senior staff nurses, Victor Chuks-Spencer, recently travelled to Sierra Leone to raise more awareness of mental health in his home country.

"I have always wanted to go back to my home country, and support and promote mental health. I was in Sierra Leone on holiday and decided to volunteer for two weeks at the psychiatric hospital in Kissy, on the outskirts of the capital Freetown."
"Clinical procedures are very different in West Africa, compared with the UK, for example, the patients’ rights are not always considered, so it was important that I shared my knowledge on best-practice clinical procedures with the nurses.

"During my placement, I provided patient care on a daily basis to really vulnerable people - it was wonderful to 'do my bit' to put a smile on their faces, and to support their road to recovery!

"I also attended training sessions where I was given the opportunity to mentor some of the mental health nurses. As a parting gift, I donated scrubs to the hospital staff - they were so pleased, as they work with such limited resources, compared with the UK.

"My time in Sierra Leone's psychiatric hospital taught me that as long as team work is a priority on mental health wards, you can deliver fantastic results, with minimal resources. I'd recommend it to anyone - it was an eye-opener, and an absolute privilege to care for mentally ill patients in my home country."

Although there is still a long way to go in ensuring that the population of Sierra Leone have access to affordable mental health, the Government has promised to integrate mental health into the overall Primary Health Care system and community-based care services.