SEATTLE, Washington — The people in Liberia have suffered through or were witness to multiple devastating horrors during the country’s two civil wars. It has been 13 years since the last one ended; however, Liberians today still carry with them unforgettable scars of the past. These scars that have either healed naturally over time or, more often, continue to darken their lives and loom overhead. The aftermath of war has significantly increased the need for mental health in Liberia.

The Carter Center

War-induced trauma has haunted hundreds of thousands of citizens across Liberia for years since the wars. This reality has no doubt been made worse by both the lack of a mental health workforce and the presence of strong cultural stigmas towards mental illness. Furthermore, only 25 percent of the population has access to healthcare. Thanks in part to the Carter Center, however, that’s all starting to change.

The Carter Center is a non-profit seeking to advance human rights and alleviate suffering in more than 80 countries worldwide. Dr. Janice Cooper, a native Liberian, is the project lead for the Carter Center’s mental health initiative in Liberia. In an interview with the Borgen Project, she mentioned that there had only been “one psychiatrist in the country and no recently trained psychiatric nurse” back in in 2010 when the Carter Center initially began working there. Since then, Cooper says that Liberia has trained 268 mental health clinicians and made mental health practices available in every county.

Issues Surrounding Mental Health

The situation is improving with rapid speed, but there are still some difficulties, such as combating the shaming and discrimination against mental illness. Dr. Cooper explained how, at the root of this issue, there is a fundamental lack of knowledge. Most people don’t know what mental illness is, where it comes from or what can be done about it. Increased efforts for education through people like Dr. Cooper and her team are helping the public to answer these sorts of questions.

Read more at Borgen Magazine