600,000 mentally ill in Sierra Leone – says Psychiatrist

By Umaru Fofana

Psychiatrist Dr Edward Nahim says there are 600,000 people in the countrywith one mental health problem or another, and warns the number is increasing.

Speaking to Politico, Sierra Leone’s sole psychiatrist said the reason for the growth in number was in part due to the recent Ebola outbreak leading to post-traumatic stress disorder just as the civil war witnessed.

He said the most common causes were drug and alcohol abuse, as well as depression emanating from unemployment and rural-urban migration with people not able to cope with the stress of big towns amid the dashed hopes and expectations.

Dr Nahim said that only five percent of people with mental health problems in the country were reporting to the hospital with the rest preferring to go to juju men, churches and traditional healers.

He said those who showed up at the hospital were mostly the dangerous ones who had committed murder and arson and other crimes.

He said mental health patients were poor hence psychiatry was not a popular branch of medicine with doctors preferring to pursue more lucrative areas.

He pleaded with the public to stop stigmatising people with mental health problems or history thereof.

He said they were under-resourced to look after their patients but were coping to provide them with food, medicine and accommodation.

Dr Nahim has been looking after mental health patients for almost four decades since the British and the Indian psychiatrists left. He has retired but continues to work as a consultant on an annually renewable basis. He told Politico that he was prepared to continue doing that “until when I die or whatever happens that I cannot work”.

(C) Politico 16/02/16

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