27, 000 Gambians require mental health services

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EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: President of a Spanish mission to The Gambia; Foundation En Pie, whose members are in the country on a fact finding mission on how they can support mental health issues said 27, 000 Gambians require mental health medical services.

At a presentation of food aid to the Tanka Tanka Psychiatric clinic by his foundation on Tuesday, Carlos Dieter Goertz said they will continue to provide support to The Gambia towards the rehabilitation process of people suffering from mental health disorders.

A 2004 World Health Organisation (WHO) situational analysis report revealed that the number of people affected by mental disorders in The Gambia is significant, with about 120,000 people having some form of mental disorder.

The report, apparently from which Mr Goertz got the figure, said 27, 000 out of the 120, 000 Gambians with mental health disorders require medical treatment.

World Health Organisation defines Mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

The positive dimension of mental health is stressed in WHO’s definition of health as contained in its constitution: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Gambia’s mental health officials say no other survey or research was conducted since the 2004, leaving a huge space of doubt whether the figure has reduced or increased. The 2004 report also said almost 90% of people with severe mental disorder are left without access to the treatment they need.

Mr Goertz said they have had few meetings with President Adama Barrow and discussed their project with him. He said En Pie mean in Spanish ‘Stand up,’ saying they exist to stand up for Africa to try through donation from the government of Spain to support Gambia.

Lamin Kaaba, the Foundation’s representative in The Gambia said Tanka Tanka Psychiatric clinic need support from organisations to help the mental health patients because they are also human beings.

He said the Foundation intends to bring a project to support families of mental health patients to provide necessary needed support, saying the first project will be starting end of November or December. “We are appealing to the government to help in tax waving when they bring the medical items. Mental health medicine is costly. Only one container of the medicine that will be coming will cost up to 3 million Euro,” he said.

In 2004, Gambia’s health ministry in collaboration with WHO embarked on the development of a mental health policy and strategic action plan for the country.

A National Drafting Committee was formed to drive the development process. The documents were drafted on the basis of a situational assessment of mental health in the country, with several wide consultations conducted with key national stakeholders and series of trainings on Mental Health Policy and ongoing technical review and inputs on different drafts from WHO and other key actors. The Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan were finalised in December 2006.

Public relations officer of Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, Kebba Sanneh said medical care worldwide is very expensive and there is no free medical care anywhere in the world. “It takes a necessary steps by organisations, institutions, individuals and corporations to contribute to the efforts of the national government in order to have the facilitation of easy medical services in our institutions.”

He thanked the Foundation for what he called their corporate social responsibility in helping people with mental psychological disorders. “We appreciate each and every donation coming to Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, especial to each unit including the sanitarium Tanka Tanka poly clinic and the main referral hospital of this country,” he said.

Metro of Tanka Tanka Psychiatric clinic, Foday Jawla assured that the support will be directed to the welfare of the mental health people who are at the clinic.

The WHO 2004 report indicated that there is limited infrastructure for mental health treatment and care in The Gambia and the Polyclinic Mental Health Unit at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital has a single room allocated for outpatient mental health services.

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