Mercy Ships Mental Health Team conducts health and well-being

eLearning sessions for caregivers in West Africa during the COVID crisis

CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA, 31 May 2020 – During Mental Health Awareness week this month, Mercy Ships South Africa highlighted the charity’s support for the mental health and well-being of caregivers during the pandemic.

“This is a critical time to support both the mental, emotional as well as physical health of our African colleagues as they are on the frontline of preparation within their own national healthcare situations.  It is important that they know they are not alone during this time when news of the virus in other parts of the world has created so much fear,” said Brenda van Straten, Director Mercy Ships South Africa.

The first of a number of eLearning courses in French and English was held for West African healthcare colleagues and partners. The first course, titled “The Heart of the Caregiver,” was moderated by Dr. Lyn Westman, Mental Health Consultant together with Glenn Strauss, M.D., Director of Medical Capacity Building. An initial 1.5-hour interactive session was offered which will be followed up with additional eLearning options as the COVID crisis unfolds in Africa.

Lyn Westman, Mental Health Program Consultant, and Glenn Straus, Programs Medical Capacity Building Director, facilitating an eLearning presentation.

“Access to those working at the front line has never been more important as healthcare and mental health providers as well as pastoral caregivers struggle to deal with the pandemic. eLearning tools have given us a new way to make sure our colleagues are connected with the critical information and training resources they need,” said Dr. Strauss.

Professionals involved in this initial course included key workers from nations Mercy Ships has worked with during the charity’s 30 years within Africa and involved professionals from Liberia, Togo, Benin, DR Congo and Cameroon working in areas ranging from mental health, community health training, psychiatric care, and hospital services.

Participants discussed strategies for maintaining personal safety and mental well-being and had the opportunity to discuss issues within their own settings and set their own goals for improvement while encouraging others in practical applications.

“I would recommend this course to my colleagues (MHCs and other health workers). I learned new ideas on self-care and stress as a health worker working with clients in the isolation and the precautionary observation center,” stated Harrison Duo, Maryland County Health Worker Liberia.

Mercy Ships is also involved in helping to supply PPE and medical supplies to partners in Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, Madagascar and Senegal.

A study released in May by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that unless controlled, the numbers within the African continent could rise dramatically to 190,000 deaths in the first year.  (1)

(1)                                                                                                  ###


Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building, and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 55 developing countries, providing services valued at more than $1.6 billion, directly benefitting more than 2.7 million people. Our ships are crewed by volunteers from over 50 nations, with an average of over 1,300 volunteers each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills. With 16 national offices and an Africa Bureau, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information click on

For More Information Contact:

Brenda van Straten

Mercy Ships

4 Athlone Building,

Cnr Cromer and Henley Roads


Office: (021) 788-3088

Mobile: +27-78-839-9985

General Hi-res photos and Mercy Ships B-Roll video footage are available here:

Specific hi-res images for this release can be found here:

Share This