By: Kona Seibure-Juana
An entire population can be affected by what is known as collective stress and social suffering in conditions of civil unrest, natural disasters, population movements, political oppression, economic insecurity and extreme poverty. In the case of Sierra Leone, several of these factors are operating and can lead to depression, post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, psychosomatic stress disorders and social dysfunction. Due to poor medical and mental health facilities, it is difficult to near impossible to meet the needs of those people who are affected.
In most circumstances like this, communities who have suffered social stress collectively, can come together to heal themselves in a collective way. This can involve a process wherein people talk openly about their pain and suffering either publicly or to a therapist.
For most of the people affected by mental health problems in Sierra Leone, they are not given the opportunity to benefit from collective healing due to the stigma associated with all forms of mental illness in such a society. They are abused, demonized and excluded from their communities; and even when they get the chance to benefit from some form of intervention, they are dehumanized in the manner in which the care is given.
The United Nations Declaration for human rights gives everyone the right to respect for their human dignity, the right to enjoy life and be entitled to measures designed to enable them become self-reliant. It gives all the right to have their special needs taken into consideration at all stages of economic and social planning. Moreover, they shall be protected against all exploitation, all regulations and all treatment of a discriminatory, abusive or degrading nature.
AMHHR therefore calls for a change in attitude towards people with mental health problems in Sierra Leone.
Stop the stigma and discrimination; it can disadvantage people with mental health problems and even their families at times.
Advocacy for mental health and Human rights AMHHRSL is calling for community action and asking for policy development and implementation to address this situation.
As citizens seeking for social justice, raise your voices against mental health stigma. Every day, in every possible way, we need to stand up to stigma.