NAMS, IRI hold public forum on mental health

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The National Assembly Member (NAM) standing committee on Health, Women, Children, Disaster and Humanitarian Relief with the support of International Republican Institute (IRI) recently conducted a public forum on Mental Health at Fajikunda Health Centre.

The day long Mental Health Forum was geared towards creating a platform targeting the law enforcement agents, Ministry of Health, CSO communities as well the National Assembly Members to discuss the issues regarding Mental Health and the way forward in improving it.

Speaking at the public forum, the National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North, Hon. Ousman Sillah said the reason behind the gathering was because the National Assembly was approached by IRI to collaborate and two oversight committees were identified which include the select committees on Health and Education.

“We have engagements with the IRI to discuss how we are going to collaborate and we identified numerous activities but one among them is holding a public forum” he added.

Hon. Sillah further stated that as a committee, they have a mandate to support in the health sector since health has so many issues and they thought as a committee that some of the issues can be done through regular engagements with the Health Ministry.

“There are many areas in the health sector but we deemed it necessary to focus the public forum on mental health since according to the National Health Policy 2012, approximately 27,000 people in the Gambia are suffering from a severe mental and/or substance abuse disorder which needs a great attention,” he stressed.

Also speaking at the public forum, Spt. Momodou D. Mballow of The Gambia Police Force, Prosecution and Legal Affairs Unit said that it is the responsibility of the police to interact with persons with both sound and unsound mind.

“It is our responsibility to enforce all laws and regulations and when we arrest a suspected lunatic it is our responsibility to prove that the person in custody has committed that crime and it includes engaging the person in the investigations,” he cited.

Spt. Mballow noted that when the person is of unsound mind and is in their custody, it is their responsibility to enforce what is stated in Section 260 Sub-section 4, quoting that “the state shall enable to facilitate equal access to clean and safe water, adequate food and medical services”.

“When a person commits a crime, it is our responsibility to investigate whether at the time he was committing the crime he was in sound mind because there is a defence for criminal lunatics.”

“After taking the suspected lunatic to the psychiatric hospital for examination, we expect a feedback from the doctors there to help us in the investigation,” he stated.

Sanjally Kanyi, campaign manager, Latri Kunda Sabiji, said health should be a concern to every individual be it a political party or even a religious group.

“My advice to the general public is to lend a helping hand to the lunatics since they are part of the society and avoiding or running away from them would not improve their mental health situation,” he concluded.

Author: Fatou B. Cham