By Amie Sanneh
Dawda Samba of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Banjul Office, said over 118,000 Gambians are suffering from mental disorder. Samba said out of this number, 27,000 suffer from severe mental health problems and 91, 000 suffer from minor substance abuse.
Samba was speaking recently at a MENTAL’K forum on men and mental health, organised by ‘Forward For You’ and MENTAL’K, in collaboration with the Directorate of Health Promotion and Education. The forum was held at the American Corner along Kairaba Avenue.
Samba disclosed that there is only one psychiatric doctor in the country, stationed at the ‘Tanka Tanka’ Hospital; that the hospital can only take care of a hundred patients, considering the number of people suffering from mental health problems in the country. He stressed the need for budgetary allocation on mental health issues, to be increased, and called on the Executive to change the old and discriminatory Laws on Mental Health. When it comes to taking care of the patients, he said the greater job lies in the hands of the family and not the Edward Francis Small Teaching or ‘Tanka Tanka’ hospitals. ‘‘The care and love they will receive from family members, helps them a lot towards their treatment against the disease,’’ he said.
Arminda Gomez, Coordinator of MENTAL’K, said Mental illness affects more men than women in the country; that there is need for people especially family members, to be more supportive to patients noting that mental illness is not mental weakness.
Aji Fatou Gaye, Director of ‘Forward For You’ said the reason why they organise the forum, is to break the stigma and silence on mental health and want people to start talking about it.
The Deputy Director at the Directorate of Health Promotion and Education, said one of the cardinal policies of health practices is partnership; that mental health should be the business of everybody.