Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses Want US$23M in Nat’l Budget

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Two of the several petitioners, who are suffering from mental illnesses

With the growing number of people with mental disorders in Liberia, about 80 of them stormed the Capitol on Monday, August 19, 2019 in demand of US$23 million from the 2019/2020 Budget to transform mental healthcare, and support to people living with mental illnesses, including free drugs and treatment centers.

The desired budgetary support is also aimed at creating awareness on the rights, discrimination, abuse and capacity building of People Living with Mental Illnesses.

Bill Jallah, president of the Cultivation for Users Hope (CFUH), who read the petition, thanked the Legislature for the approval of the mental health law of 2017 and said the US$23 million will also actualize the policy of the Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan for Liberia (2016 – 2021) in which the government has committed to fund, but is yet to do so over the past three years.

Jallah said the  five-year Mental Health Policy has the strategic goals that would increase the clinical capacity of mental health professionals; in-patient capacity through the establishment of wellness units at all county hospitals and training  selected professionals to identify, manage and refer persons with mental illness at primary care level.

Others are providing the necessary psychotropic drugs to expand the availability, and access of mental health services at all primary care facilities; training community based workers to recognize the signs of mental illness, and make referrals to the appropriate healthcare providers and facilities; sensitizing  communities about mental illness, including epilepsy and addiction, and modify negative perceptions about persons with mental illness, thereby minimizing stigma and negative behaviors; and encourage families to get involved in the care and management of their loved ones and to build the new Catherine Mills Mental Health Center to promote quality care and rehabilitation for persons with mental ill health

Advocates of people living with mental illnesses at the Capitol Building

“Those of us that have gathered here are representing all persons in Liberia, who are using mental health services; up to 500,000 persons across the country. Yet mental healthcare continues to be seriously sidelined. Each of us needs a good mental health to be able to fully function; to pursue our life goals and to meet our responsibilities as citizens,” Mr. Bill said.

He added: “It will require only US$23 million to transform mental health care in Liberia; to make sure that every person, who needs attention for their mental health has someone and somewhere to turn to for support.”

“While we recognize that our country’s economy is facing enormous challenge; we believe steady investments in mental healthcare will change the story,” Bill said.

He continued, “This 2019/2020 National Budget, we are here to call on you our Representatives to commit at least 5% of our National Health Budget to Mental Healthcare for the full implementation of the National Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan. By this, we will be creating a sustainable and healthy future for our country.”

CFUH is a local non-government organization that comprised of persons living with mental illnesses.

According to the Mental Health Policy and Strategic Plan for Liberia, by 2020, mental illness and substance use disorders will be the number one cause of morbidity in Liberia, and the rest of the world.

The studies said mental illness and substance use disorders mainly affects the youth, because up to 75% of all mental health disorders start in the youth, which is about 73% of Liberian population.

Schizophrenia, epilepsy, the impact of the deadly Ebola virus, impact of the civil wars, which caused depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder lead to mental illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health report in 2001, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. And around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

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