I was privileged to lead a team that designed an assessment tool which was used to conduct a countrywide situation analysis of mental health services in Zambia earlier this year. The initial phase included three teams which assessed Western, Eastern and Northern Province while the second phase completed the assessment of the remaining provinces, which included Southern, Muchinga, Lusaka, Central and Laupula, North-Western and Copper-belt Province. The findings showed that mental health services are highly centralised and under-prioritised at all levels with inadequate supply of psychotropic medications among others. Recommendations were made, which included the need to organise programs that emphasise the need to ride on the existing programs in our quest to integrate mental health care into general health care of primary health care facilities.
This led to the organisation of the first five days mental health training program for District Health Directors and District Mental Health Focal Persons for Lusaka Province as a Pioneer in our improvement of Mental Health Services in the Country, where I served as the lead facilitator. I must make mention that I enjoyed having reflective activities with the participants, the style I borrowed from the Australia Awards Short Course in Mental Health Care in a Public health Context. The District Health Directors and District Mental Health Focal Persons made commitments to begin mental health programs in their districts. This workshop was officially opened by the Director of Health Promotion, Social Determinants and Environment at Ministry of Health Headquarters under whom mental health services and had the blessings of the National Mental Health Coordinator who gave one talk in the workshop. Furthermore, the Provincial Health Director passed through the workshop and committed to supporting mental health activities in the province. We also had the provincial mental health coordinator in attendance for the entire five days. The provincial coordinator charged the district mental health focal persons to work the various stakeholders in their respective districts when coming up with programs and also committed to working in collaboration with us when monitoring and evaluating mental health programs in the province. We plan to roll out these trainings to all the other provinces and one good part is that we have financial support through the Ministry of Health.
I owe my successful participation to the lessons learnt in the Australia Awards Short Course in Mental Health Care in a Public Health Context.