THREE therapists travelled to Ghana to train health workers on maternal mental health.

Sue Strand, Emma Layton and Rachel Dutton, all from Preston Road, Brighton, took part in a project by the international disability charity CBM UK to improve support for new mothers in the west African country.

The three women work for the Mid Sussex NHS Time To Talk service, which offers talking therapies to people struggling with depression or anxiety disorders.

Emma Layton, 28, said: “We were very excited to be able to share some knowledge and work in an environment that was so new to us.

“It was a privilege to be given the opportunity.”

The therapists gave training sessions on maternal mental health issues and the implications for families when these problems are not addressed.

Rachel, 54, said: “The aim was to educate health workers about mental health being so important to advocate maternal wellbeing and to bring in a cognitive behavioural approach, rather than the medical model.”

The therapists did training with midwives, the project’s leaders who are co-ordinating outreach work in villages across Ghana and leaders of new peer support groups set up by CBM UK.

Rachel and Emma said the idea of cognitive therapy was a new one for the support group leaders in particular.

Emma said: “For us, the idea behind cognitive behavioural therapy is that you can control your thoughts and your behaviours and have a change in your mind.

“But this was a really new concept to them and it took a lot longer than we thought to get that across.”

The therapists said the main barrier for mothers accessing mental health support was a lack of infrastructure and the extent of poverty and physical health problems, which are prioritised by health services there.

Rachel said: “With any woman having a baby the needs are similar, but their system is so different to ours.

“The extent of poverty there is big, and that can lead to further issues, if you are away from your family or if you have a husband who is not good to you.”

Emma said: “In Ghana the man has financial responsibility and if he leaves, people don’t think much of you.

“We met people like that who were finding things very difficult because they could not work and they had to look after a child.

“The charity has created these self-help groups so there’s a support network for people. It was a really great experience and we would love to go back.”