HPIC and Saint Camille – Improving Mental Health in Benin, Ivory Coast and Togo

For the last ten years, Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) has partnered with the Association Saint-Camille-de-Lellis (Saint-Camille), to support patients suffering from mental health disorders in the West African countries of Benin, Ivory Coast and Togo.

Founded by Grégoire Ahongbonon in 1991, Saint-Camille seeks to demystify and eliminate the stigma of mental illness in the region through offering patients psychiatric and primary care. In honour of his important work and commitment to mental health, this month Mr. Ahongbonon was awarded the prestigious Dr. Guislain “Breaking the Chains of Stigma” Award (www.drguislainaward.org) which is awarded annually to people, organizations or projects around the world that have made an “exceptional contribution to mental healthcare” and which rewards “initiatives that approach people suffering from mental illness as cultural, creative and social beings”.

First started as a group of volunteers providing basic care and emotional support to local people suffering from mental illness, Saint-Camille has now grown into a network of 50 inpatient psychiatric and rehabilitation centers and outpatient clinics across the region.

Patients are welcomed into a Saint Camille Center to regain dignity and freedom (Source: HPIC).

When patients arrive at a Saint-Camille treatment center, they are diagnosed and provided with psychiatric services including counselling and medications approved for the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

HPIC is pleased to partner with Mr. Ahongbonon and Saint-Camille in this life-saving work.

Saint-Camille has been advocating for national procurement of needed mental health medications and has been implementing cooperative mechanisms to enable patients to access medicines on an ongoing basis. However, where gaps remain and procuring medicines has been a challenge, HPIC has assisted Saint Camille in obtaining donated products used to treat more complex illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

With regular access to medicine and treatment by nurses, therapists and caregivers, patients have been able to resume their daily activities and have been reintegrated back into their communities, many becoming Saint Camille workers themselves.

Beyond its work with Saint Camille, since 2015, HPIC has delivered more than 500,000 monthly courses of treatment to patients in over 30 countries. Recognizing mental health as an escalating area of need, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, HPIC looks forward to working with partners to play a greater role in improving mental health services around the world. For all of us, the work continues.