Last Thursday, we concluded our weekly contributions to the ongoing mental health awareness month by sharing our reflections on the need for engaging and consistent grassroots action. We need this especially today in Africa where mental health still suffers from such taboo. Indeed, we as a community have 2dare2 talk about it loud and clear enough for the different stakeholders to take concrete action.
The trickle down effect
We go by the assumption that the ordinary citizen is more responsive to any rule, practice or procedure that comes from a leader. This leader may be the head of the family, community, administrative unit, nation, or organization such as WHO or the UN.
In the case of an already stigmatized and vulnerable populace such as those affected by a poor mental health, it is easier to give up efforts at reaching out for help when there is no faith in any existing structures or policies in place. In as much as people need to make their voices heard for more meaningful change to occur, in as much as they equally get more momentum due to the trickle down effect of existing policies.
The Gbm Foundation’s goals and efforts to facilitate such trickle down effect
The Gbm Foundation for Epilepsy and Mental Wellbeing intends to pursue its campaign to the farthest rural area in each programme area it defines. We are conscious of the fact that the grassroots may sometimes be relying on any available and reliable policies and social services, to be confident that if they dare2talk about their ‘stigmatized’ conditions, help will be forthcoming. We are therefore working closely with Administrative authorities and various stakeholders, to ensure a better trickle down effect of any social and mental health policies.
In this regard, the Foundation in collaboration with some key partners and a renowned neurologist, recently undertook a sensitization and outreach campaign to its first programme area which is the Lebialem Division in the South West Region of Cameroon. One of the activities of the campaign was the presentation of current myths and realities surrounding epilepsy and general mental health, and the available services in place for patients and their caregivers.
WHO is taking mental health awareness seriously, so should our governments
WHO predicts that depression will rank just behind heart conditions in terms of the global disease burden in the coming years. It has released several publications for over a decade now, tracing the irreversible link between mental health and development. In a 2010 Policy Analysis of Mental Health and Development, the organization concluded its findings by reiterating the need for Mental health issues to be integrated into all broader development and poverty eradication policies and programmes as a key indicator of human development.
Out of 45 African Countries surveyed, only 19 were found to have a mental health policy in place. This is very discouraging as we can already see the near absence of any chance of a possible trickle down effect of any of such policies.
Yet, all is not lost because scientific research and other social transformations are equally facilitating the adoption of relevant policies to tackle this silent crisis in Africa.