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Mental health staff workshop at the Paul-Louis Renée Center

Ensuring access to mental health care

Recently the mental health personnel of the Paul-Louis Renée Center had the opportunity of undergoing several staff trainings overseen by Dr. Julian Eaton, British psychiatrist and Senior Mental Health Advisor for CBM. Dr. Eaton was based in Lomé for several years and had the opportunity to meet the center’s personnel regularly and to develop an understanding of how the center works. As we have documented in the past, it is common for mental health staff in Africa to have little training, leading to aggressive and violent physical restraint. Such episodes, sometimes resulting in physical injury, only add to the patient’s already traumatic experience and severely damages the therapeutic relationship.

During the trainings, Dr. Eaton focused on the rights of patients to decide their own treatment based on the principles of international human rights conventions like the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Participants went through a step-by-step management process for challenging and aggressive behavior, emphasizing a gradual approach aimed at avoiding and reducing violence. Sessions on stress management provided all staff with guidance on how to look after their own mental health and with the skills necessary to manage patients with acute stress reactions, anxiety, and PTSD.

In addition to the health care provided at the Center, staff have also been proactive in developing rehabilitation services such as gardening for recovering patients and social work to address problems in the community. In reflecting on his experience at the Center, Dr. Eaton stated, “What is often most powerful in aiding recovery though, is the support of peers who have had the same experience. It has been my privilege to see the growth of Association Vie Libérée, a group of people who have experienced mental illness, which Sister Marie Viviane has supported through the Center since their foundation. As well as providing peer support, they advocate for their rights and try to change attitudes about mental illness in the community.”

The workshops were very much appreciated by everyone at the Paul-Louis Renée Center. We are confident that director Sister Marie Viviane will make sure the newly acquired tools are implemented to further improve the quality of mental health care patients receive.