Supporting behavioral health education in Lilongwe, Malawi, March 2011


Image by US Army Africa
U.S. Army photo by U.S. Army Africa

Maj. David Sensiba, behavioral health deputy director, European Regional Medical Command (ERMC) and Chap. (Maj.) Allen Staley, world religions chaplain, U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) traveled to Kamuzu Barracks in Lilongwe, Malawi, recently to meet with more than 30 health care providers and chaplains of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to exchange information on military behavioral health.

Sensiba said the purpose of the exchange was to increase respective understanding while building partnership and capability between the two organizations.

“We shared with them what we do in the area of behavioral health care for U.S. Soldiers and Families, with particular emphasis on deployment cycle support, and they shared what they do,” Sensiba said. “This dialogue was very productive and timely, thanks to lessons learned from U.S. deployments and the MDF’s role in Peacekeeping operations in Africa,” he said.
Staley described the chaplain role as one of cooperation and team work.

“We discussed the strong partnership between the chaplaincy and medical/behavioral health care providers, as members of the same professional team in the interests of providing the best care to MDF Soldiers and Families,” he said.

Chap. (Lt. Col.) Fr. Meke Banda, deputy chief of chaplains, MDF, said that this is the first time they have been able to meet to discuss mutual relationship as caregivers, and learn how to provide the best care to MDF Soldiers and Families.”

The information exchange was requested by Dr. (Brig. Gen.) A. Chitsa Banda, director of the Malawi Military Health Services, and coordinated further by MAJ Terry Clark, director of medical TSC engagements from the USARAF Command Surgeon’s Office.

“If we as care providers and chaplains don’t understand what we are dealing with in light of the challenges coming our way, we can be the first to fall sick,” Banda said. “We must learn and work together as mental and spiritual health multipliers,” he said.

After participating in the exchange, John Ice, the U.S. Embassy Political Officer in Malawi, summed up the essence of the exchange as the beginning of a journey working together to provide better behavioral health services for members of the MDF.

This information exchange between behavioral health providers and chaplains was a precursor to the upcoming MEDREACH 11 exercise in May, where combat and operational stress will be discussed during the academic phase, according to Clark.

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