People with Mental Health in Liberia Struggling in Silence

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MONROVIA –  Mental Care–Liberia Board Chair Dr. Quita Roberts has expressed disappointment with the way people with mental care are treated in the country.

Dr.  Roberts who is based in the U.S., says many people with mental health problems struggle in silence because they are afraid of being judged.

“So many people blame themselves for having mental illnesses. They feel that it’s their fault, people with mental health problem struggle in silence in Liberia,” she says.

She noted that the civil war in Liberia contributed to mental health problem in the country, saying, “Those who went through the war here can testify to the fact about the trauma one can experience after witnessing a horrible war – related incident.

Lecturing young people brought together from different high schools in Monrovia at a one day mental health fair on the campuses of the University of Liberia on Capitol Hill in Monrovia, Dr. Roberts challenged young people at the mental health fair to muster the courage to inspire other youths in Liberia to stay away from harmful substances and take their lessen seriously.

She however urged them to make use of the internet to learn more about mental illness and inform others who are not abreast with the issue, saying they don’t need a summit to be educated about mental illness due to lot of information available on the internet.

Dr. Roberts explains that everyone is one crisis away from a mental breakdown, “Anything can take you over,” and therefore she urges attendees to break the stigma which, according to her, is the negative attitude that people have towards mental health.

She suggests that the conversation about mental health has to happen in the Churches, communities, schools and in the offices, saying “we shouldn’t shy away from it.” She noted.

Also making his presentation at the Mental Health Fair, Pastor Gemane Gedaliah Getteh disclosed that there is a widespread mental health challenge Liberia faces as a nation.

He however explained that there are limited capacities to face the challenge the country is faced with.

“The capacity to meet the mental health challenges in Liberia is small; dismally small, true or false?” he asked the students as they (students) responded with a yes.

He however agrees with Dr. Quita Roberts that there are many things that are causing the mental health burden in Liberia include war, Ebola crisis, drug addiction, sexual violence amongst others.

He called for a massive support to mental health program in Liberia, “People in the public health sector can deal with these problems through education and commitment, and support organizations and those affected, among others,” he noted.

Also speaking, Liberian mental health practitioner and former John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFKMC) Administrative Secretary Madam Comfort Nyenetue Cooper has said Liberia is falling into darkness.

She disclosed that Liberia young people are unprepared generation of young people whose future is further being ruined by drugs abuse.

She said the country is falling in darkness and the young people are mostly affected, “The country is falling into darkness; I’m telling you this as a truth. You got youth passing around that cannot even spell their own names correctly, but just tell them one thing, they have more than fifty arguments to make with you,” Madam Cooper told the students.

Madam Cooper told her audience who were predominantly young people that she owes it to them that they don’t have the right to be zogoes, “You don’t have to be zogos, there are lots of your friends in the very schools you attend that are already consuming drugs in many different forms, you don’t have to be like them be yourself and study your lesson to become someone good tomorrow in society,”

She urged them to make use of the education being taught by Mental Care-Liberia.

“You cannot sit in this chair under the voice of Mental Care – Liberia and leave from here to do the … wrong thing. Engage your friends, engage the community,” she urged them.

Madam Cooper expressed fear that Liberia is heading to direction of what she calls “Where” saying Liberia future leaders might not be ready to lead if young people will continue using harmful drugs or narcotic.

Ehs however called on national government through the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) to help in the fight against drugs, saying drugs are everywhere in the country.

“The DEA needs to help us; they got drugs everywhere – at your door step, behind your house, by your house …,” she says, warning that about 20 years from now, Nigerians or Ghanaians might be brought here to take care of Liberia due to lack of leaders.

Musa Carter, a former drug user and addict said he has been using drugs for over twenty-five until he came in contact with Mental Care- Liberia at which time he got saved and is now a good citizen.

Sharing his story with the students at the Mental Care-Liberia fair, Carter explained that “I used to take drugs and even sleep outside, didn’t had time for myself, I normally took in substances that were harmful to my system but I have overcome already,”

He urged the students not to be like him but focus on their lesson and their future.

According the Cater Center Liberia official website, many Liberians witnessed their family and friends brutally killed or raped during Liberia’s more than 13 years of devastating civil war, which ended in 2003.

With only one practicing psychiatrist in the country and limited access to psychiatric medicines, the psychological impact of the conflict continues to cause tremendous suffering.

For example, approximately 40 percent of Liberia’s 3.4 million people experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the invitation of the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, The Carter Center is working to help the country build a sustainable mental health system that can address this void.

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