No Country Is Immune To Threats Of Mental Illnesses - Health Minister Jallow

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Gambia last Sunday joined the rest of the world in observing World Mental Health Day, a day set aside by member states of the World Health Organisation, in collaboration with the World Federation of Mental, to draw global attention to the growing mental health problems and the need for collective action in addressing them.

Delivering her statement at the occasion, Dr. Mariatou Jallow, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, said no country is immune to the threats of mental illnesses.

According to her, the World Health Organisation has stated that mental disorders affect 12% of the world’s population. She added that approximately 450 million or one out of every four people around the world will experience one form of mental illness that would benefit from diagnosis and treatment.

She stated that in spite of the challenges, mental health services and the promotion of mental well-being still receive much less attention and resources. She noted that The Gambia government has prioritised mental health in its health programme policy. 

For his part, the WHO representative to The Gambia, Dr. Thomas Sukwa who read the statement on behalf of the WHO Regional Director for Africa, said that studies and estimates carried out in the region have shown that, for example, nearly 80% of the people suffering from epilepsy, for the 34 million people consuming cannabis or “khat” on the continent, and for people suffering from undiagnosed depression, particularly when the symptoms are somatic.

According to him, people of the WHO African Region are facing mental health problems some of which are increasing in magnitude, especially as access to continuing and quality care is limited for a large number of people suffering from mental or neurological disorders or other disorders relating to substance abuse, particularly within the community and in peripheral health centres.

He stated that in other to assist countries to overcome the main obstacles to improving mental health, the orientations adopted by member states as contained in the document on the Regional Strategy for Mental Health put emphasis on various measures, namely the designation within the Ministry of Health of a focal person in charge of the mental health programme; allocation of financial resources sufficient for implementation of activities, among other.

Author: Pa Modou Faal