A partnership between The Department of Health Sciences at York University and Zomba Mental Health Services, Zomba, Malawi is strengthening the system of community mental health care in Zomba District through developing the enhanced role of Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs).
Angelina Chilumpha, an experienced mental health psychiatric nurse, received training from the partnership so she in turn could train more HSAs. ‘It felt good to be asked because mental health services have been side-lined in Malawian communities…if we impart knowledge to our colleagues then we can help our community.’
To date, 242 health workers have been trained by the partnership, including trainers like Angelina.
As village-based health workers, HSAs are active in attending to the public health needs of the population, and helping those with mental health conditions address the problems in an appropriate way. As Angelina states, the training also plays a key role in helping to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, ‘In the community people with psychosis are seen as a threat so participants in the training were eager to learn about mental health so they could understand the condition better and know how to handle it, and even to assist individuals and their families.’