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Liberia falling into darkness

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-Health practitioner says

Liberian mental health practitioner and former John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFKMC) Administrative Secretary Madam Comfort Nyenetue Cooper says Liberia is falling into darkness, particularly on account of its unprepared generation of young people whose future is further being ruined by drugs abuse.

“The country is falling into darkness, I’m telling you this. You got youth, they pass around they can’t even spell their own names, but [if] you tell them one thing, they got fifty arguments to make with you,” Madam Cooper told an audience of predominantly young high school students attending a mental health fair Friday, 16 April at the University of Liberia (UL) Auditorium on Capitol Hill.

Organized by Mental Care – Liberia, the mental health fair through presentations by licensed mental health practitioners, exposed the grade school students and other attendees to a lot of causes of mental health issues affecting people, including war, pandemic, sexual violence and drug addiction, among others.

In a remark at the mental health fair, Madam Cooper tells the attendees that she owes it to them that they don’t have the right to be zogoes, a Liberian way of referring to wayward folks.

“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,” Madam Cooper urges the attendees.

Borrowing the popular saying which states that “when the capable are not available, the available becomes capable,” Madam Cooper expresses fear that Liberia is heading to such a direction [where its future leaders might not be ready to lead].She calls on the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) to help in this fight, 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.

She states that because Liberians are traumatized, if you tell somebody “good morning,” they will want to beat you up.

Earlier in her presentation, Mental Care – Liberia Board Chair Dr. Quita 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,” she says.

According to her, 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].

She challenges the young people at the mental health fair to pledge to inspire and to inform, 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, meaning “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.”

Also making his presentation, Pastor Gemane Gedaliah Getteh says there’s widespread mental health challenge that Liberia faces as a nation, but notes that there is limited capacity to face the challenge.

“The capacity to meet the mental health challenges in Liberia is small; dismally small, true or false?” he says as student students respond “True.” He says the things are causing the mental health burden in Liberia include war, Ebola crisis, drug addiction, sexual violence.

He recommends that people in the public health sector can deal with these problems through education and commitment, and support organizations and those affected, among others.

By Winston W. Parley

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