Correspondent Matthew Kanu writes:
A two day conference on Mental Health was held at the University of Makeni in December, organized by the Sierra Leone Mental Health Coalition. Participants in the conference were drawn from the health sector and other civil society groups with focus on health, including the University of Makeni Mental Health Department ,the Social Workers Union and Health and Advocacy Program.
Addressing participants of the conference the Registrar and Director of Academic Affairs Reverend Dr. Fr. Francis Sehdu Sesay said every meaningful Sierra Leonean should help others in maintaining a stable and mental health status in the country. “Our responsibility as a University is to minimize mental illness in Sierra Leone” he claimed.
Many believe that people should try to embrace the seriousness and reality of mental health in Sierra Leone because people should have advice on how to manage themselves. There are mental health risks in crisis situations such as the Ebola outbreak and the mudslide that change the psychological makeup of the people .
Many people in the street of Makeni hold the view that the conference is just the beginning of expressing the seriousness of focusing on Mental Health in Sierra Leone. Expressing his opinion in an interview, a trader in the Makeni City main lorry park, Sorie Conteh, said there are limited Mental Health drugs in most hospitals across Sierra Leone . “Government should know that Mental Health patients have their right to access affordable drugs” he explained . A student from the University of Makeni John Koroma believed that the families have a lot to do in order to minimize mental health in the country . He believed that the family is the first institution to respect the mentally ill people in society.“The families need to know that Mental Health patients should be respected” he exclaimed.
According to retired Dr. Edward Muana there were over 400,000 Mental Health patients after the decade long civil conflict and there are over 600,000 Mental Health Patients after the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. According to the 2015 Housing and Population Census there are 7 million people in Sierra Leone.
Addressing participants at the end of the conference Joshua Duncan of the Mental Health Coalition of Sierra Leone explained that the coalition was impressed with calibre of participants from the health sector and civil society that attended the conference but emphasized the need to engage in networking and partnership in order to ensure that the mental health illness is minimized or eradicated in the country. “The country will not develop if we refuse to focus on mental health” he explained.