Exploring Potential In Promoting Community Mental Health In Nigeria

On the 17th of November, Gede met with N4A represented by Sophie McCann (Executive Director), Rebecca Tinsely (Founder) and Barbara Bauer (Trauma Psychologist) and a representative from AMES, James Ogenyi. Present from Gede was the Managing Director - John Minto, Performance Directors - Godwin Etim (Resource Mobilisation and Partnership Management), Cynthia J Ticao (Research and Advocacy) and Jeremy Boglosa (Organisational Development and Support Services). Also present from Gede were Kizito Ebhohimen (Monitoring and Evaluation Manager) and Zunzika Thole-Okpo (Media Officer). 

Brief and detailed histories of Gede and N4A were given and James gave a snapshot of what is happening in North East Nigeria. The situation in the north is most dire and needs more NGOs to help not just with nutritional services but with the mental health and psychosocial aspects. He noted that, often, his team travels with local vigilantes in order to access those in the camps and provide them with the little help they need. Some locals are so traumatised that they cannot speak at all. Those in the camps are exposed to some relaxation techniques so as to take their minds off of that has happened and is still happening. Some Boko Haram wives are also present in the camps and the name brings with it some level of stigma. A number of suicides have taken place in the camps and one well has been termed the ‘well of death’. This is where some people have gone to commit suicide. The well is still in use despite its name and negative connotations. 

Going forward, James noted that what is needed is for more NGOs to come together and help, much like what N4A have done in Rwanda and Uganda. Sophie McCann agreed that there are indeed many similarities between what the Rwandan Liberation Army (RLA) did and what Boko Haram is doing. 

Given the positive outcome they have had in Uganda and Rwanda, Nigeria would benefit from N4A as people try to rebuild their lives and overcome the wounds, physical, emotional and mental, that Boko Haram has caused. 

On Friday, November 18th, Gede and Network for Africa (N4A) met with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA). The meeting was primarily for Gede to introduce N4A to NPHCDA and for the Agency to discuss their emerging plans related to community based mental health.

N4A explained, in detail, the amazing work that they have done in post genocidal Rwanda and post war Uganda. They have done tremendous work in reaching over 9000 people in both Uganda and Rwanda and equipping them with skills such as conflict resolution, counselling in trauma and sustainable livelihoods as they embark on rebuilding their lives. They asked what they could do in the case of the Boko Haram insurgency in North Eastern Nigeria. 

In return, the NPHCDA was very excited to host N4A and assured them that working together in addressing mental health issues of the survivors is of the utmost importance. They also commended the N4A for their efforts in other parts of Africa and hope that the success they had there, could be replicated here. Furthermore, N4A was applauded for going through the right channels in trying to help Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria. 

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