Members of the House and Senate have pledged their support to ensure the draft Mental Health Bill that was recently sent to the Upper House is passed into law.
The draft Mental Health Bill is an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoH&SW), Liberia Crusaders for Peace (LCP) and other partners. It has been sent to the Liberian Senate for appropriate consideration.
Mental Illness refers to all diagnosable mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
At a panel discussion on mental health issues held at the National Legislature on Thursday March 13, many of the Senators pledged their unflinching support to the draft bill and promised to ensure it is passed into law.
The Health Ministry and the LCP organized the panel discussion.
The Senators also told the crafter of the bill, to come out with a budget that would support the provision of services to mentally ill Liberians.
Grand Kru County Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Gender or Women and Children, Dr. (MD) Peter S. Coleman, welcomed the idea and promised to work with others to make sure the bill is passed.
“We all know what the war did to some of our people. The trauma of 14 years left many Liberians suffering from mental-illnesses,” Senator Coleman explained.
He said without the Bill it would be difficult to get mentally ill people off the streets for treatment.
Describing how important the passage of the bill is to him, Senator Coleman said “I will work hard to find additional funding to help the process be carried out smoothly. I want this bill to pass for the sake of mentally ill people in our country.”
Senator Armah Jallah welcomed the process and asked the heads of the MOH/SW to have the bill written in budget line in order to have the process sped up.
The Deputy Minister and Chief Medical officer of the MOH/SW, Dr. Bernice Dahn, thanked the Senate for their high level of concern shown to Liberia’s mentally ill.
Madam Dahn said when the bill is passed by the Legislature, it would help provide well equipped mental health care centers for patients to be treated and protected.
The Mental Illness awareness campaign is being held under the theme: “Support the Mental Health Bill and Protect Mentally-ill People in Your Community. Put More Money into the Mental Health Budget. Mental Health Is Everybody’s Business.”
Serving as panelist at the Legislature was 20-year-old Samurai Hina, Miss Liberia for the State of Georgia, USA. Ms. Hina is a strong advocate for the passege of the mental health bill and used the medium to appeal to the legislature to have the bill passed.
According to her, “We can have a high quality health care system similar to others around the world; but that goal can only be achieved through commitment and sacrifice.”
Ms. Hina said the National Mental Health Coordinating Division charged with the responsibility of coordinating and ensuring the implementation of all mental health activities in the country must be supported to meet the country’s enormous mental health needs.
Van Vicker, an award winning actor from Ghana and a son of Liberia, promised to bring in 25 medical doctors by October to provide free medication to the people of Liberia’s 15 counties; including Maryland, where his biological mother hails from.
According to Mr. Vicker the estimated amount for the doctors and the treatment will cost him a little over US$250,000.
“This is my gift to my country. I promise to work with the team to achieve our goal of reducing the high rate of mental illness in Liberia,” he said.