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Act With Great Haste to Combat Illness and Stigma

Oct 20, 2008, 6:14 AM

It is very encouraging to see that the Department of State for Health and particularly the Secretary of State Dr. Malick Njie are taking such a proactive role in tackling the issue of mental health in The Gambia. Last week The Gambia joined the rest of the world to observe World Mental Health Day. The theme for this years World Mental Health Day was 'Making Mental Health a Global Priority; scaling up services through citizen advocacy and action'.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Njie stated the Department of State for Health and Social Welfare has developed, for the first time in its history, a National Mental Health policy and strategic plan which will guide the provision of mental health services in the country. He added that the policy instruments developed through a consultative process involving all stakeholders are only waiting for approval by the National Assembly.

We ask that the National Assembly immediately approve these measures so that all those in The Gambia affected by mental health issues can receive the best possible treatment.

Many mental health issues are very easily treated when they are identified and action is taken in an efficient manner. The kind of frameworks that are being suggested would make this identification and treatment a much easier job and would relieve many families of the considerable pressure they experience when trying to care for someone who is suffering from a mental health problem.

We still must also work to combat the stigma associated with mental health problems in the community so that those afflicted and their families do not suffer excessively as a result of the illness.

The policy in question highlighted fundamental issues that need urgent attention which include the following

1. The right of the mentally -ill to treatment, care and support as other patients.

2. Provision of affordable and accessible mental health services to the general population.

3. Protection of the mentally ill against stigma, discrimination and social exclusion.

4. Community awareness and participation in mental health promotion and resource mobilisation for mental health.

If these issues are addressed as stated above then the burden will be considerably eased on may people suffering from mental health problems and also their families. We as a nation must work hard to ensure that this happens so that we can be a more inclusive and just society.

"Your prayers should be for a healthy mind in a healthy body"