Alumni from seven African countries (Namibia, Malawi, Ghana, Tanzania, Liberia, Seychelles and Uganda) presented papers at the fourth Mental Health and Well-Being Conference that took place in Kumasi Ghana from 15-17 October 2018. The Mental Health and Well-being Foundation (MHWBF) organised the conference in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, Australia. A key objective was to provide a platform for African mental health practitioners to share their experiences and to enhance their collaboration in both mental health policy and practice. The conference also featured presentations from persons with lived experience of mental health conditions.
Subject specialists at the conference recognised the good standard of all the alumni presentations. Mr Benjamin Vel, a Seychellois alumnus and a mental health consultant, won an award for ‘best presentation’.
While affirming the Australian Government’s strong relationship with Ghana, the Australia High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Andrew Barnes, lauded Dr Francis Acquah (Founder, MHWBF) and the University of Newcastle for fostering mental healthcare best practice in Ghana. ‘Investing in mental health and well-being impacts positively on the individual, the cultural and the economic productivity of a nation,’ he said.
‘We have seen a wonderful transition in mental health in Ghana and a growing understanding of mental health in the Ghanaian health sector and communities. In any hospital, 40 per cent of patients’ conditions are mental health problems and mental health-related issues that manifest as physical illness,’ remarked Dr Akwasi Osei, the CEO, Mental Health Authority of Ghana.
Ugandan alumnus Mr James Asiimwe, who founded the Kabale Vision for Children (KAVC) Foundation, including a children’s home and education centre, noted that ‘the KAVC Foundation has already started to benefit from the mental health conference in Ghana. I have agreed, with our sponsors, that our children should receive enhanced mental health support.’
Malawian alumna Ms Chimwemwe Tembo, a mental health specialist working with the St John of God Hospital, further added, ‘The conference offered ideas on improving school and prison mental health programs that I am currently implementing.’
Australia Awards envisages that alumni can use their skills, knowledge and networks in sectors that contribute to sustainable development in their home country. The conference forms part of the Australian Government’s commitment to disability inclusion. At the conference, alumni promoted the current scholarship round widely and specifically the Mental Health Care Management in a Public Health Context Short Course Award to be delivered in 2019.