May is Mental Illness awareness month

Hello World, we are challenging ourselves to do a post each day of this month which is commemorated as the Mental Health Awareness month. A few days ago, we rebloged a post from mental health advocate Kitt O’Malley in which she shared some alarming but poignant statistics on the stages of mental health in the USA, and the cost of delaying to’ face the problem’ until the last stage.

Today, we share a poignant article from Think Africa Press, which qualifies mental health in Africa as an invisible problem.

Mental Health Remains An Invisible Problem in Africa

This is a chained mentally ill patient.

This is a chained mentally ill patient.

The article argues that: “The way language is used to conceptualize mental illness is essential to its understanding and treatment”. We agree with them, up to the extent of arguing that there still is yet to be any genuine language to conceptualize mental illness in probably a large chunk of Africa.

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It is for the above reason that one of the programs of the Gbm Foundation and Centre for Epilepsy and Mental Wellbeing, will be the national campaign for Epilepsy and Mental Health called: “Let’s Dare to Talk About it”. Until we talk about a problem, we can not claim to want to solve it. And yet, shunning away from talking about a problem, will only amplify it, and so we find ourselves or our loved ones, with a deteriorating mental health, worsening from stage one all the way to stage four (as per the chart shared by Kitt O’Malley), before ending up in chains like the unfortunate man in the picture above.

The article above also makes the following claims:

A lack of mental health policy, as well as social stigma, has meant that in much of Africa mental illness is a hidden issue. Without developing a language to discuss the problem, avenues to treatment and understanding of the phenomena in an African context remain seriously under-addressed.

No health without mental health

In most African countries, mental health is seen as a peripheral and isolated issue. With other immediate physical health pressures, such as improving infant mortality and reducing AIDS rates, mental health does not necessarily rank as a priority. However, this approach is deeply misguided. 14% of the global burden of the disease is attributed to mental illness – which includes a broad spectrum of diagnoses, from common mental illnesses such as anxiety and substance abuse, to severe illnesses like psychosis. Mental health well-being is closely associated to several Millennium Development Goals, with areas as broad as education, maternal health, HIV and poverty all entwined with the problems of mental illness.

Dear gentle readers and followers, it is the painful realization of the prevailing and damaging social stigma above all, which served as a catalyst for the creation of the Gbm Foundation and Centre for Epilepsy and Mental Wellbeing. Gabriel Bebonbechem was a young man of great potential with a big heart, but his mum and others, could only try what they could given the circumstances, to help him cope and live with his epileptic and mental health disorders.

Gabriel Bebonbechem with his Signature Smile

Gabriel Bebonbechem with his Signature Smile

The battle for his life was lost, but we are not stopping at mourning that loss. We want to help and reach out to others who are going through similar challenges. We want to Dare to Talk About It. We want to advocate very forcefully that Mental Health in Africa doesn’t have to remain an invisible problem. Indeed, without a sound mental health, no one can function normally.

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