Liberia’s Mental Health Care: A Crucial Need for Improvement By Ernest S. Maximore
Liberia, a country with 3.5 million population has only one mental specialist, Dr. Benjamin Harris and one psychiatrist hospital, E.S. Grant Hospital, which is not even a public hospital. It is practically nonexistent because of little or no support: wreck facility, lack of more psychiatrists and outpatient service dysfunctional. This is a gross disproportion to the increasing mental health related illnesses budding in a country where citizens suffered 14 years of civil war with increasing post war traumatic mental health problems. It important to note that Liberia is a country whose citizens experienced 14 years of fratricidal war punctuated by an ad hoc, improper and short term government policy on demobilization and rehabilitation process of over 60 thousands combatants without a defined therapy for victims. With mental health care system practically non-existent and the traditional belief that mental health illness is caused by demonic or supernatural forces, the need for rigorous, efficient and effective mental health policy and program cannot be overemphasized. Status of Liberia’s Mental Health Care
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, able to cope with the normal stresses of life and can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. In this positive sense, WHO avers, mental health is the foundation for individual well-being and the effective functioning of a community. Mental health is an essential part of health; and it is an incontestable fact that there is no health without mental health. The Liberian Governments yesterday and today cannot pride herself, if there is any glory it is opting to get, on better health care when the troubling concern of no better mental health mechanism and system are actually prevailing. Successive Liberian governments cannot also boast of immeasurable developments if there is anything to boast of, when scores of its citizens are wrestling daily to cope with the unexamined and unhandled stresses, strains and uncouthness and the psychological impact the 14 –year civil war (1989 -2003) continues to perk up in their daily interactions and various communities as result of the deprived effective and efficient mental health care prowling the country. The international community also cannot brag much on this subject because very little was done from them in the mental health care sector probably because of the rush and urgent situation of the country for immediate and temporary solutions like food, medicine and emergency relief during and immediately after the long civil war.
Health Policy With Little or no Action
Liberia, despite, its 163 years of existence was only able to develop a community-based national mental health policy in the late 2009 for years after the end of the internecine conflict. The Policy highlights the grave problems the country face in mental health care such as the lack of mental health facilities and services, psychiatric drugs, trained manpower, education and training opportunity, monitoring and evaluation, mental health research, forensic services, human rights and epidemiology. In the face of all those problems catalogued in this mental health document, little or nothing concrete has actually been done to significantly improve the mental health care. There are still inadequate mental health drugs for sale and they are vastly costly and often out of stock. Unqualified mental health workers who shamelessly lack the requisite training, skill, knowledge and ability are the ones who are barefacedly acting as psychiatrists by examining and providing treatments for the mentally ill patients. The A.M.E. Diglotti Medical College, Liberia’s only public professional medical college up...
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