The stigma surrounding mental health is a significant problem in Africa, leading to many unpleasant things like suicide; thus, the topic’s conversation is vital.
In The Gambia, mental health is a significant concern due to its prevalence rate and low access to treatment. Over the last 22 years of rule of the Jammeh regime, wives who saw their husbands disappear and mothers who saw their daughter raped were among the headlines, which caused many traumas among families.
Ngaima Sesay, a Psychosocial Trauma professional, is at the forefront through her NGO, Organization for psychosocial Innovation (OPI), to steer up mental health conversations and create a safe space for all.
The American Psychiatric Association defines mental health as our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Sesay’s initial career in mental health revolves around Clinical psychology and global mental health, including research, academia and policy development. While working with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission in The Gambia, Sesay saw the need to work outside academia.
One thing led to another, resulting in the Organization for psychosocial Innovation (OPI).
In a bid to achieve her vision of creating accessible mental health care for all in The Gambia and beyond, Sesay applied for the prestigious Chevening scholarship program. Among dozen applicants, she became a Chevening scholar 2021/2022.
Building A Safe Space And Enhancing A Community’s Mental Well-being
Through her organisation, Sesay fights mental health stigma and discrimination by creating awareness.
One of her notable crafts includes empowering people to speak up by creating a safe space. The organisation’s communities include “Tea, Talk and Detox”, a free monthly program encouraging an “interactive psychoeducation procedure where you will learn about the warning signs of mental health”, OPI conversation clubs, OPI community Meets and OPI corporate wellness.
The organisation has achieved numerous breakthroughs, among them is community outreach, billboards on major roadsides and the most recent one — space for one-on-one counselling sessions, which was not readily accessible in Gambian communities.