The administration of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK) in collaboration with E.S Grant Mental Health Hospital celebrated this year’s World Mental Health Day on Wednesday, October 10 in Monrovia under the theme, “Young People and Mental Health is a Changing World.”
The E. S. Grant, which is JFK’s component, is Liberia’s only referral mental health facility that receives government’s direct subsidy.
A study the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted shows that 20 percent of adolescents may experience a mental problem in any given situation, which constitutes 50 percent of mental health problems that are established between the ages of 14 and 24, while 10 percent of children (ages 5-16 years) have been clinically diagnosed of mental problem. Yet, 70 percent of children and adolescents, who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate intervention at an early age.
According to WHO, half of all mental illnesses in the victims begin at the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated.
Alexander Blackie, Mental Health program training coordinator at The Carter Center (TCC), observed that in recent times, Liberia has become a hotspot for mental illness, particularly among the young people. He said the harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs among young people is the one of the major causes of mental illness. Depression, he added, is the third leading cause of mental illness.
According to Blackie, the issue of mental illness is the result of the lack of proper healthcare system and the inability of policy-makers to create laws that would prosecute suspected traffickers of illicit drugs in the country.
He then questioned the ability of some of the young people, who have been diagnosed of mental illness, to continue taking their prescribed medication to restore their mental health.
He said there is still time that Liberia as a nation can make right the wrongs to reduce mental-related illnesses.
JFK Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Administration, Dr. Dama Yekerson-Koffa, promised on behalf of the new administration to prioritize the E.S. Grant Hospital to urgently address the social vices mental health was creating for the population. She also underscored the need to integrate mental health into the mainstream healthcare delivery system.