“I decided to seek help because I was hearing voices and seeing people who were not there. Finding it difficult to distinguish what was real and what was not. I told my parents and they decided I go to church and see our Pastor, you know seek divine help, hoping I was still in shock over a nightmare”- “I am not Crazy!”: Diary of a Bipolar Menace.
The issue of mental health is yet to be fully addressed in the various nations of Africa. Individuals with mental illness are often viewed as having demonic possession or they are stigmatized and ostracized from their families. For those that seek medical care, there are usually little or no available services. However, various events and current research show that there is an increased need for mental health services in Africa especially in conflict and post-conflict areas. A recent report by Voice of America (VOA) illustrates the great need for mental health services and the lack of adequate capacity to address mental health concerns in the region. VOA reports that former combatants in South Sudan exhibit symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which could lead to suicide and various forms of violence including maiming and killing others. South Sudan has psychologists but not a single psychiatrist nor adequate mental health facilities and psychiatric medication. As a result, these psychologists have no option but to sedate mental health suffers and if that does not work, they are sent to prison in the capital city, Juba. The same story holds for Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But can we do something about it? Vikram Patel, the Co-director of the Centre for Global Mental Health says yes. In his talk seen below, Dr. Patel describes a model of care which trains ordinary people in resource-poor areas with the aim of empowering them to protect the health of their communities. He has also published a book titled “Where There is No Psychiatrist”, which provides readers with a guide to problem-solve various clinical disorders.
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