Stigmatized mental illness and mental health problems in Africa
What is Africa's mental health impact of displacement, war, sexual violence and rape, famine, and disaster in Africa? Mental illness and mental health problems are taboo subjects that leaves people stigmatized in much of Africa. Mental health issues often come last on the list of priorities.
|WHO's Chain Free Initiative|
Most developing countries dedicate less than 2% of government health budgets to mental health care. Mental health issues are usually given very low priority in health service policies and services that are funded are poorly staffed.
Mental health issues often come last on the list of priorities for policy-makers. Where mortality is still mostly the result of infectious diseases and malnutrition, the morbidity and disablement due to mental illness receive very little attention from the government.
In Uganda, "Locally people say Mulalu, which literally means you're mad, you're useless" says Jimmy Odoki, who also has bipolar disorder. "Where I come from people say 'that one he's a walking dead'." according to the BBC.This belief system often leads to unhelpful or health-damaging responses to mental illness, and to the stigmatization of the mentally ill. Young girls and women that are from families that are known to have a history of mental illness marriage prospects are severely limited. Fear means people with mental illnesses and their family can end up being abandoned by society.
In some regions of Africa, the solution for caring for the mentally ill is to shackle the person by the ankle and hide them away for years. At home, people with mental illness are commonly chained by their parents or other relatives to control the mentally ill person.
WHO’s chain-free initiative evolved in response to an urgent need to provide training and support for hospital reform, improve domestic conditions for people with mental illness, develop community programs, raise mental health awareness throughout Africa, and ensure the basic rights of the mentally ill.
Many volunteer organizations provide temporary psychological care to the vulnerable citizens of Africa in humanitarian emergencies, however; appropriate government funding of mental health programs is needed for a long-term solution to mental healthcare in Africa.
Conflict situations also fuel sexual violence and rape which require specialized psychological care which is urgently needed in some parts of Africa. Governmental and non-governmental agencies must work together to ensure a comprehensive approach towards a solution to suitable mental healthcare in Africa.