Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 October 2020:
Yesterday, Saturday 10th October, Advocacy for Mental Health and Human Rights (AMHHR) joined hands to observe World Mental Health Day to raise awareness on mental health issues around the world and mobilise efforts in support of mental health, particularly in Sierra Leone.
The organisation brought together groups they have established in four schools in Bo City, Including CKC, Bo school, UCC and QRS for a procession along the main streets of Bo City to mark the day. Due to the Covid19 regulations this year, a smaller number of children were allowed to participate in the event.
Mr Abu, founding member of AMMHR, said they wanted to send a strong message using school children because they are among the most vulnerable groups exposed to mental illness in Sierra Leone.
As an awareness raising and policy advocacy organisation, AMMHR also used the opportunity to call on the government to start applying civil and political rights to mental health, based on standards set by international and regional systems of human rights protection.
“We need to see active progress in this direction by the Sierra Leone Government.” Said AMMHR CEO and Founder, Kona Seibureh.
“Mental health is a key determinant of health and socio-economic development and is often times referred to as preserved wealth. There is overwhelming evidence that good mental wellbeing is important for our physical health and help us achieve the goals we set for ourselves” Kona Seibureh explained.
Sierra Leone is counted among the poorest countries in the world; and living in poverty causes chronic stress and struggle, especially for young people, which may have an impact on brain function, particularly if experienced at certain critical points in development.
According to AMMHR , there are significant threats to the mental health of our people, which often results in the violation of their human rights, and often includes fundamental problems of abuse, battering, marital rape, and murder. Some become chemical dependent and abuse substances like alcohol, and in some cases, attempt or commit suicide.
The majority of those affected with these problems are faced with a variety of issues, ranging from discrimination/stigmatisation, social isolation, to uncertainty as to where to get help or information, to relying on the informal support of family, friends or colleagues
Kona Seibureh stated that her organisation acknowledges actions taken by the government to refurbish the Kissy Psychiatric hospital, and also welcomes the promise of establishing a separate Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences to train mental health professionals such as nurses, occupational therapists, addiction specialists, and says that this should commence as soon as possible.
She emphasised that AMMHR will intensify calls for Government to make it a priority to finance behavioural health services such as drug and alcohol counselling, Psycho-social counselling/Trauma healing, counselling, assessment and rehab centres.
“We need community-based psychosocial approaches – treatments which do not require medication to improve care and decrease the stigma of mental health” Kona Seibureh said.
“Despite initiatives undertaken collaboratively with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and with support from their partners to improve mental health promotion and services in the country, this is not enough. The government of Sierra Leone should support the application of social, economic, and cultural rights to mental health care, particularly with respect to the rights of all citizens to mental health services. The Human Rights Policy presently in existence does not make it a duty for the Government to provide for the needs of people suffering from mental health problems.” She explained.
She also said she believes that with the right resources and support, civil society organisations and local communities can collaborate with government to foster a safe society and school and community environment that promotes good mental health, to support the overall well-being of its citizens and all children and youth in Sierra Leone.
“A strong committed and sustained action from the Government using a public health approach, with a focus on mental health promotion for the social and economic development of the citizens, is key to ensuring mental health services for all, everywhere and at any time” she concluded
About Advocacy for Mental Health and Human Rights (AMHHR).
Advocacy for Mental Health and Human Rights (AMHHR) is a grassroots mental health advocacy charity dedicated to the protection of persons living with mental illness and their families. AMHHR is committed to the prevention of mental health stigma/discrimination and to the improvement of the quality of life of all whose lives are affected by mental illness.