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Mental Illness Must Be a Priority in Liberia

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There are many people living with mental illness in Liberia today, whose lives came to a complete halt because of psychological or physiological breakdown. However, mental illness is cause by chemical in balances of the brain cell. Then how are we going to explain that lack of priority intervention for the mentality ill.

As Liberia struggles with its mentally ill population in the principle streets of Monrovia and Liberia in general, many continue to find the reasons behind the problem.  Some want us to believe that mental illness in our country derives for drug (Marijuana) use, voodoo and the use of talisman to be bookish.  The one thing most Liberians are not saying how those individuals can get treatment in order to get them off the streets.

Mental health is an issue of enormous proportion our government just cannot overlook.  We Liberians have not done our best  in dealing with the spiraling mental health crisis in our country, and have tried for years to drag this serious problem under the rug, because of the ‘shame’ we’ve attached to what we termed as “craziness”

We abandon and run from those with mental illness.  They live in the streets, under bridges, open markets and other places.  Some walked around the country naked and forgotten.  We are often embarrassed by their presence.  Liberian chidden and adults teased and abused them verbally and physically.

We bad-mouthed them and call them names, the c-word (crazy) and we stigmatized them with all sort of negative names. All of our previous administrations have not prioritized the mental health of Liberians as a national security problem, and country (Liberia) does not have an impressive record dealing with mental health issues.

As a result, there is JFK Grant Mental Health Hospital run by the government of Liberia, which is underfunded and with inadequate logistics for the counseling intervention for the mentally ill or used to be one poorly run and under-serve (Catherine Mills) mental health hospital in the entire country.

Our religious institutions have not done any better either, perhaps, only one (Providence Baptist Church) provides hot meal for some youth with mental illness in the street of Monrovia. Our political leaders and those running for the highest office of the land have promised the Liberian people almost everything on earth except the funding and treatment of mental health.

And if burned-out family members with limited or no funds don’t care for their mentally ill relatives, nobody will.  In most cases, those with mental illness in Liberia roamed around the streets of Liberia for year until death knocks at the doors.  Yes, our country is still trying to bounce back from years of chaos.  The treatment of the mentally, however, must be a priority in Liberia.

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Ali Sylla, is  a Psychotherapist at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Executive Director of the Center of Counseling and Restorative Dialogue, Inc. Located on King Sao Street Monrovia, Liberia, Tel: +231-6274694 or email at sylla.asyyl@gmail.coms

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