EHS-COVID (407) COVID-19 and mental health services (11)

16 June, 2021

The covid19 pandemic in Cameroon has had an ambivalent effect on Cameroon’s mental health care services delivery and on its users. On the one hand mental health care services provided to individuals belonging to vulnerable groups (for example persons living with a physical or mental health disability) was and still is seriously aaffected and on the other hand, persons who had covid19, persons who were to be tested or who were tested covid19 positive, including their family members (in the process on contact tracing) received adequate and improved mental health care services. I was informed just recently that Health professionals had also received mental health care services during the covid19 from the Ministry of public health. But there is not enough evidence to support a national support coverage to health providers. However, it seems clear that because of funding issues, mental healthcare services initiatives provided by local NGOs or INGOs ran more and more effectively than public initiatives (Ministry of Public health). For instance UNIPSY covered 5 regions out of the 10 regions of Cameroon in the provision of psychological support to health care providers.

I asked Flore Bouyap a clinical psychologist working at the Cardinal Paul Emile LEGER (CNRPH) National Rehabilitation Center for persons with disabilities how covid19 has affected the delivery of essential mental health services in her facility. The CNRPH is a public administrative body with legal and financial autonomy. She told me that the covid19 affected her practice, the mental health care services she was providing to users of the CNRPH, basically persons with disability and their families. In fact, the barrier measures put forward by the Cameroonian government restricting the number of persons in public services was a great hindrance to the mental health care services she provided. For instance, group therapies were halted in the CNRPH with hospitalized patients and care givers of these patients. Moreover, Flore had to reframe face to face consultations because of the need to respect physical distancing. The wearing of the mask by patients during clinical encounters was a hindrance to the clinical process’s need to rely on nonverbal cues. Distancing had to be adjusted so as to meet-up her clinical needs. Flore now provides more remote psychological support to her patients. Group counselling sessions which were reduced initially have even stopped completely as the fear of going to the hospital and fear of the health professionals increased during the pandemic. Until today mental health service delivery in CNRPH is not what it used to be before the covid19.

The covid19 pandemic enabled in some regards to put on the base to build a better mental health system in Cameroon. During the pandemic the Ministry of public health made two collaborations. One with the Ministry of Secondary Education, with respect to drafting of a psychological manual for students in secondary schools. School counsellors were put into the forefront in the use of this tool. Moreover, with the support of the WHO a response plan targeting children and adolescents was drafted. Cameroon’s innovative mental health care set-up during the covid19 enabled during that time to provide mental health care services to the affected population. A psychological unit was opened in the Ministry of Public Health to coordinate this mental health care services. However, the services were seriously challenged as a result of lack of funding necessary to carry on training, sensitization and remote psychological support. Presently the hotline call center has only 10 workers for the whole of Cameroon. There are equally important unmet mental health needs, for instance the psychological support to the mental health teams which worked during the covid19. This team was made up of volunteer psychologist and they worked to support the health system. There is need therefore to strengthen the system's human work force by building at all levels more than ever before mental health capacity.

Best wishes,

Didier Demassosso

HIFA Coordinator Country Representative Afro Region

Mental Health Innovation Network Africa Knowlegde Exchange Assistant

Mental Health Expert

HIFA Country Coordinator For WHO AFRO Region

HIFA Country representative of the year 2014

MHIN Africa Knowledge Exchange Assistant

Member of the African Evidence Network (AEN)

Cameroon Human Right Fellow 2017

http://www.hifa.org

Tel :(237) 670-14-01-23/694-90-20-29

twitter:@DDemassosso

skype: Didier Demassosso

linkedin.com/in/didier-demassosso

HIFA profile: Didier Demassosso is a mental health practitioner, Consultant (WHO , MoPH Cameroon...), Mental health advocate , Youth advocate with 10 years experience in mental health development in Cameroon. He is also a health communicator and educationist. HIFA Country Representative For Cameroon/ HIFA Country Representative of the year 2014 / Regional Coordinator for Africa. He also currently volunteers for the Mental Health Innovation Network Africa as Knowledge Exchange Assistant. http://www.hifa.org/people/country-representatives/map

http://www.hifa.org/support/members/didier

Email: didier.demassosso AT gmail.com