[Q&A Blog Series #MentalHealthAwareness Month] Mental Health Leadership in Egypt

This blog series highlighted the importance of Leadership Programmes in global mental health in anticipation of the upcoming Leadership Exchange in Stockholm. The International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL) are hosting this year’s Leadership Exchange with the theme ‘Building Bridges Beyond Borders’ from May 28th-June 1st in Stockholm. The Leadership Exchange is an international event for mental health leaders that takes place every year with the objective to facilitate bi-directional learning for effective mental health leadership initiatives and build networks that are mutually beneficial for leaders, organizations and countries.

For this series, we asked innovators from three influential Leadership Programmes to share their experiences regarding the type of skills participants enrolled in these modules acquire and the lessons they learned.

This is the last Q&A blog in the series and it is directed at Kate Ellis, one of the co-facilitators of a workshop at the Leadership Exchange who is also a Coordinator of the Leadership in Mental Health course at the American University in Cairo.

1. What were the important key messages regarding mental health leadership from the course for attendees?

The course objectives include:

  • Increasing students’ understanding of the leadership skills required in order to improve mental health services
  • Developing and disseminating national mental health policy and strategy
  • Decentralizing mental health services in order to improve access and meet mental health needs
  • The ultimate aim at the end of the course was to ensure that:
  • Participants would be motivated to improve the mental health of their populations,
  • They were able to work towards enhancing the care of service users,
  • They possessed the skills to prioritize mental health on the wider health and development agenda
  • Participants were motivated pursue further training and development of their professional networks

2. What have you done to cover the gaps in mental health leadership during the course?

The course structure includes delivery of didactic teaching, in addition to also utilizing active learning strategies such as case studies, exercises, group discussion and over-arching group projects when designing mental health plans.  Participants are asked to give country specific presentations on their own work and the status of mental health services in their country. Local, regional and international experts in a variety of areas identified by the course developers and partners incorporated these methods into their introductions to topics such as:

  • Mental health policy and law development
  • Mental health advocacy
  • Developing community based services and alliances
  • Program design and evaluation
  • Emergencies and vulnerable groups and leadership

3. How will the leaders in their settings who attended the course be able to bridge these gaps in their settings?

Attendees will be better equipped to identify and bridge these gaps in their settings. They will be able to do this through developing stakeholder and service user networks in order to identify and perform needs assessment, using tools such as the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), with skills in program design and evaluation to convince those who are responsible for financing sustainable services.

Several previous participants have used the training to successfully build alliances and country networks to work together, be more aware of what services are available and where to avoid overlap and to draw support from each other, as well as, sharing the training with their colleagues on return to their settings.

4. What do you envision for the future of mental health leadership?

In the Middle East and North Africa region, I envisage a working law and policy for each country that is enforced and culturally appropriate. Wide-scale campaigns on stigma and education regarding mental health in this region are paramount and required.

- Kate Ellis

De-centralisation of services to the community is in its infancy in most countries in the region. Where services do exist, countries such as Lebanon and Iran are making good progress and can be used as examples for other countries in the region to follow. Egypt has started rolling out services into the community in certain areas and this is in its early stages. Funding is very limited and there needs to be more recognition of the burden of mental health on health systems and services and more of the public health budget allocated throughout the region. A focus on training non-professional mental health workers and front line staff such as nurses, social workers and so on is necessary with the lack of trained personnel in the region and the large need for service provision.

5. Are you attending the IIMHL Leadership exchange conference in May? What do you hope to see and what are you excited about?

Yes I will be attending and I am excited about the opportunity to work with others to develop a direction and shared vision for leadership, to brainstorm the accessibility of needed trainings and discussing how to develop a wider reach.

The American University in Cairo will be holding their 3rd annual Leadership in Mental Health Course from July 15-25. For more details on this course please view their forum post.

Middle East
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