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Sierra Leone Specialist Psychiatrist and Psychiatrist in Charge/Hospital Care Manager at the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Abdul Jalloh, has on Wednesday 7 October 2020, during an exclusive interview with this writer spoke about the importance of World Mental Health Day, and further emphasized on the need for more investment into mental healthcare issues in Sierra Leone.
Mental Health Day is celebrated every year since 1992 on 10 Octoberglobally. This year 2020, the celebration is taking place under its distinguished theme: “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access.”
Speaking on the relevance of the theme in line with happenings in Sierra Leone, Dr Jalloh first recalled that on Thursday 4 June 2020, His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio at the commissioning of the renovated Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital Complex had committed that mental health intervention is within his government’s overarching “human capital development priority.”
In the words of the President, it was stated that “our country has been bludgeoned over the last three decades by traumatic event after traumatic event – from the bloody violence and chaos of the civil war, to catastrophic natural disasters like the mudslide and flooding, through the Ebola virus disease epidemic, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.”Hence, President Bio is quoted to have said “we recognize that as a nation, we must act now. We must invest heavily in mental healthcare.”
During the interview, Dr Jalloh said previously there was complete neglect in the investment on mental healthcare not only in Sierra Leone but also globally. He said so far, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, has over the past two (2) years with support from Partners In Health (PIH) made significant progress in face-lifting the Psychiatric Hospital in the country. He said the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital had undergone a lot of infrastructural development such as improved toilet system, renovated wards with new beds and mattresses. He further mentioned the current upgradedlighting system, fans for ventilation and plasma televisions installed in their various buildings. He confirmed that they also now have a modernized lecture hall with a semi conference room and a library together with other improvements like a completed Laboratory building, Recreational Centre (Occupational Therapy Unit) equipped with sewing machines, musical instruments, and various indoor games, and a basketball and hand tennis courts for staff and patients.
However, whilst dilating on the need for more investment on mental healthcare in Sierra Leone, Dr Abdul Jalloh said before now, investment in health care was minimal. He further stated that, after the visit of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, there is a thirty-five (35%) increase in patients flow to the hospital.
Also, Dr Jalloh Spoke about COVID 19 pandemic effects on Sierra Leone mental healthcare. He said “in the event of an infectious disease outbreak, such as Coronavirus, everyone reacts differently to such stressful situations,” adding that “the kernels of misinformation during an outbreak made people feed on uncertainty, grow in doubt and then reactsin the form of individual or mass panic especially during measures to limit and control the spread of the disease.”
Dr Jalloh furthered that social distancing, quarantine and isolation are measures used by the government to limit the potential of this highly contagious disease to spread but also the health issues relating to frontline workers must be in thorough consideration.
Sierra Leone Specialist Psychiatrist spoke about the importance of World Mental Health Day. He said the general aims of the day since 1992 were to promote mental health advocacy and to educate the public on relevant mental healthcare issues. He added that as the World Mental Health Day is celebrated globally on the 10 October; he is calling for the urgent redress and greater investment in mental health – a call which can no longer be ignored.
Dr Jalloh concluded Sierra Leone would have had a very big celebration to mark the 200th years Anniversary of the Psychiatric Hospital in the country. However, due to the current COVID19 pandemic, that could not hold. Notwithstanding, he is calling on Sierra Leoneans to record a one (1) minute video of themselves or in a group in a physical exercise with a complementary message of calling for greater investment in Sierra Leone mental healthcare and post to various social media platform. This will serve as a way of commemorating the World Mental Health Day in the country.
Meanwhile, on her remarks before the celebration of World Mental Health Day, Dr Ingrid Daniels, President of WFMH says that “now more than ever greater investment in mental health is needed to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to mental health care. The under-investment in mental health has left large treatment gaps globally,” concluding that the “World Mental Health Day is simply not a one-day event and provides us with the opportunity and advantage to hold the attention of governments, donors, policy-makers and all stakeholders to ensure action for greater investment in mental health. Let us hold hands and unify our voices in moving the mental health investment agenda for increased focus and access to mental health and thereby making mental health a reality for all – everyone, everywhere.”
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