Sierra Leone urgently needs a National Plan for Mental Health

Joseph F. Kamara: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 October 2019:

Today, 10th October 2019, has been designated by the World Health Organization “(WHO”) as “World Mental Health Day”, to promote awareness of mental health in people all over the world. This year, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has decided to make “suicide prevention” the main theme of World Mental Health Day.

The past few decades have witnessed the gradual increase of suicidal behaviour which has reached alarming statistical levels the world over. Thankfully, in Sierra Leone, records on Suicide, have remain low, over the past years.

While the WHO has made suicide a priority issue, I will rather redirect the focus to physical violence against Mental Health victims. It is important to emphasize that for a number of years, physical violence, such as sexual assault, rape, wounding and torture, have generated the greatest interest of most Governments.

The recent spate of violence against the person in Sierra Leone, has reached a worrisome level for any peace loving citizen. Reports of threats of violence and physical attacks likened to Mafiosi gangsterism of the 1940s, have reared its ugly head and surprisingly unaddressed, and rife with impunity. Of greater concern is the exposure of mental health patients to these vicious physical attacks and rape.

I vividly recall that in my youthful days in Makeni, we had a mentally challenged lady by the name of Ya Alimamy. I had seen her pregnant on two occasions, and in my young mind, quite curious as to who could be the culprit. One side had it that some other patient could have done the deed. (Photo: Joseph F. Kamara).

But alas, when the child was born, rumours had it also, that the evidence produced was strongly middle eastern genetically. The truth may never be known, but she must have been exploited because of her circumstance.

In a more recent vintage, videos of ‘Blakka’, a barber, with mental challenges was seen bloodied and battered, with no trace of the assailants. The social media is replete with videos of torture, beatings and acid being poured on victims of violence in our country.

On one or two occasions, the perpetrators were identified, but no action was taken or known to have been taken. Impunity continues to linger in the corridors of crime.

Let this be a clarion call for the security apparatus of the State, to rise up and live up to expectations. Politicising state security is a bedrock for national chaos and war. History has taught us that state security has helped to fuel most of the riots of today. For instance, the Umbrella protests in Hong Kong and the Green Vests in France, to name but a few. It will be a disservice, if we sit still and say nothing, out of fear.

Furthermore, we call  for the formulation of a National Plan for Mental Health, to improve and promote the mental health of all Sierra Leonean inhabitants, using preventive strategies, from a family and community care approach. Thus, this plan must focus on Regulation and Human Rights; and the Provision of Mental Health Care.

A well formulated and efficiently managed National Plan for Mental Health, will directly address one of the major concerns of citizens in this area, which is, the care for their rights.

These rights should be safeguarded within legislation; however, there is still no Mental Health Law in the country.

One will suggest therefore, the drafting of a Bill for Mental Health Law “To recognise and guarantee the fundamental rights of the people with mental illness or disability, in specific, their right to personal liberty and their right to healthcare”.

Thus, this Bill will cater for the judicial regularisation of the care, protection, and dignity of those facing mental health problems in terms of treatment and hospitalisation.

To aspire towards achieving an improved mental health care, let it be known that it takes all stakeholders, inclusive of the private sector, to attain that goal.

In an allegorical sense, it takes both the sun and the rain to grow a palm tree.

Let this be a gentle reminder to everyone who feels stuck in a tuber, waiting only for the rains and forgetting that the rays of the sun, will have to shine, to complete the growth.

In today’s economic challenges, when everything seems dark – it’s important to appreciate the sparkles of light. A well-defined and national cohesive political will, shall provide sunlight to permeate through the dark crevice of our governance structure.

May the Mental World Health Day lighten our vison and understanding of offering protection to the vulnerable, especially those affected by mental health issues.

About the author

Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara is one of Sierra Leone’s presidential aspirants and a legal luminary, with years of experience as a Barrister. He is the former Attorney General and minister of justice of Sierra Leone. He was also the country’s head of the Anti-Corruption Commission. He currently runs a law firm in Freetown.

10 Comments

  1. And there he comes crawling angrily out of the shadows,a disgruntled caterpillar dressed in garments of Green…SLPP paid agents talking about Incompetence, as if they know the intrinsic meaning of the word. (lmao)This isn’t Russia amigo – This is a Democracy,and last time I checked it was still a free country,where I was born…Now who the hell are you to tell someone, anyone what to say,and how to think?(lol). The only legitimate authority I recognize, would listen to, and consider on this glorious Platform is the Honorable Abdul Thomas; no one else…Clear enough. Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  2. If people can stick to issues rather than personal attacks, it will be all for the better; and as a nation plot a better way forward. Resorting to personal attacks could well be the last refuge of incompetence.

  3. Honorable Mr Thomas – Perhaps you are not aware Sir, that people who are regarded as Morbidly Obese,are easily prone to suffering from acute Dementia,attention disorders,and a drastic overall reduction in their Cognitive performances,and output. As a matter of fact by harshly criticising the President, I am doing him a favor,warning him that he is fast approaching the danger zones of Metabolic, vascular, and Coronary Heart diseases.

    Again,there are many Scientists who agree worldwide that Morbid Obesity,always comes with fatigue,and shortness of breath,that adversely affects an individuals productivity,skills,and performance levels. However, I will do my best to tone down my criticisms of his physical appearance….Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  4. GREATSAYEDNA, What a story! once again you had all the women in my house in tears,upon hearing your story.My wife,and her sister translated your story to my old mother in law,and she kept shaking her head in sadness.Then they read your description of the President,and now they cannot stop laughing. I told them several times already to make up their minds;either laugh or cry.And what happened Saidu,to that lady? Did you ever see her again?Its so sad to hear touching words such as those coming from the mentally sick.

  5. First, and foremost do not ask me about a leather All Saints Brown Suede leather jacket I gave to her,ask me instead about the types of cars I drive,and the motor bikes I own.(lol) Shocking isn’t it? To see someone so generous(lmao) Well that’s the Saidu Conteh way!And there are more stories to tell..They don’t call me “Great Sayedna” for nothing! I am a self made man – fearless, intelligent,young,generous,and sincere.

    That story was not meant for you greedy,inglorious, stingy,tribalistic people,but for those with hearts full of love – those looking to ignite the world with compassion – those anxiously looking for wings,to ascend greater heights and fly away.(lol) Listen,its takes a rare kind of person to experience what I did – even in her lowest,most trying, degrading moment,the lady could see that a radiant moon had crossed her path…Well,even if it was only for a brief moment I was able to brighten her life, I am thankful to Existence beyond words can ever express.

    So you who is dumb,and blind enough to support a KOBO FOOT criminal Soldier that resembles a turtle,that cannot walk straight,crawl, or run – that is a HUGE FEEDER; that resembles the “Michelin Man” put your ramshackle house in order first,and then come back,and talk to me (lmao).Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • Mr Conteh – you are pushing the bounds of fair criticism of the president here. Please refrain from personal attacks. Taking a swipe at or humouring the president’s physical characteristics or health issues is unacceptable, and has nothing to do with his management of State affairs to which you are absolutely entitled to comment. Thank you.

  6. Issues regarding mental health trouble me deeply because I am a compassionate person at heart,who cannot stand seeing others looking destitute,dirty,hungry,and deranged. Totally breaks my heart! A sustainable mental plan is not lacking only in Sierra Leone but also all across the African continent – this shows you clearly how uncaring,and wicked Africans really are. Many men and women roaming our streets, half naked,labeled as “Madmen” are just chronically depressed; others are suffering from emotional disorders like Bipolar disease, and acute schizophrenia.,that can be easily managed with loving care,and tender treatment.

    Once in Burkina Faso,as I was having lunch in an outside restaurant,a mentally ill woman came along,and stood there,dressed in rags,carrying a huge pile garbage,begging for food.In an instant,she was chased away by the owner with a big stick,but it seemed she was hungry so she returned again,standing at a safe distance,still begging for food. At that point,I couldn’t bear it no longer, so I instructed the owner to give her anything she wanted,and more,if she demands it.He laughed, and then told me I would be wasting my money;and my reply to him was “what I do with my money is none of your business,or concern”.

    So disgruntled,and angry,he prepared a dish I ordered for the lady,and gave it to her,and she thanked me,and went and stood at a far distance looking at me.After I had finished my lunch and was walking away, she approached me and said the strangest thing: “Monsieur,you are very kind,and I am not mad.” She then said gently with a smile: “If only you, or someone will marry me today, I will become completely sober. I will cook,clean,have children,and become your wife.” I was totally speechless! So I removed my jacket in tears,and gave it to her with some money,and said: “Wear this jacket,and remember me – Someday I will be back to marry you.” And she waved as I walked away…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

    • “Monsieur,you are very kind,and I am not mad.” She then said gently with a smile: “If only you, or someone will marry me today, I will become completely sober. I will cook,clean,have children,and become your wife.” I was totally speechless! So I removed my jacket in tears,and gave it to her with some money,and said: “Wear this jacket,and remember me – Someday I will be back to marry you.” And she waved as I walked away…Rising Sun Will Rise Again.”

      Lol….O Lord please give me plenty of faith to endure. Lol. Wow, if this was not a very serious subject I would have thought this is so funny. Saidu, did you ever go back to marry her? You lying Red Sun. Lol. The truth is that in true APC style and modus operandi, you never fulfilled your promise to the poor old lady, did you? Lol.

      Typical Tolongbo, all talk and promise, and no action! Lol. Thats why the Red sun will not rise again in Sierra Leone for decades to come. By the way, how much did you pay for that jacket my dear friend? Lol.

  7. “Reports of threats of violence and physical attacks likened to Mafiosi gangsterism of the 1940s, have reared its ugly head and surprisingly unaddressed, and rife with impunity” What a load of crap, coming from our former Attorney-General. I hope Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara is not trying to imply that the heightened threat of violence and gangsterism against people with mental illness has something to do with the current SLPP administration.

    It would have served him well to stay with the topic of Mental Health, which is a very neglected public health issue in our country but to say violence against people with Mental Health has reached unproportioned levels now is pure hogwash.
    As a country we can do more to take care of our folks who are suffering not only from mental illness but also from intellectual disability. But we all know that all the previous governments have not been able to tackle this problem because there is no allocated budget for this health crisis.

    As it is, it is far more difficult to take care of the majority of our able-bodied countrymen not afflicted with this disease, let alone those who are. In the United States for example, people who suffer from Intellectual Disability and Mental Illness are supported through Medicaid Insurance, which is a joint Federal and State program that provides health coverage for certain low asset people, including children, pregnant women, people with disability and the elderly needing nursing home care.

    In most African countries, this is a challenge because we do not see this population of people as productive citizens. Money that is allocated for social services is so inconsequential to make a difference. Maybe if our esteemed former Attorney General and his band of state looters had not spent most of our monies on building massive mansions, they would have set the foundation for improving the lives of people with Mental Illness. Talk is cheap!

  8. Indeed. ‘NO MENTAL HEALTH LAW IN SIERRA LEONE’. SAD. I thank the LEARNED lawyer and politician for his article.
    He must have read my comment on the recently held event concerning ALCOHOL ABUSE where I clearly stated the importance of MENTAL HEALTH. That in my view motivated the LEARNED LAWYER and POLITICIAN to be concerned. You see how this PLATFORM has become a bucket of IDEAS and INFORMATION DATA for past and present POLITICIANS? People just keep listening to us. IMPRESSIVE STUFF. I hope I am proved wrong.

    FORUMITES, let us just continue to be responsible on our criticism and support on the ISSUES. Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara was a former Attorney-General but he never did anything about MENTAL HEALTH during his tenure of office. However, I appreciate his views in this issue of MENTAL HEALTH and give him THUMBS UP.
    GOD BLESS YOU Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara.

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.