Why do we need a National Institute of Mental Health in Ethiopia?

Dr. Dawit Assefa Ethiopian Psychiatrists Association

As promised, I will try to provide the reasons for the establishment of the National Mental Health Institute in our country and related issues in the following article. In this impatient and fast-paced age of social media, I try to squeeze in as much as I can, as trying to make a long article appear to be difficult for the reader. But if I have wasted my time, I apologize.

There are many who think that mental health is just a matter of patients. But as the mind is the measure and special feature of our being human, safety should be a matter of concern to all who claim to have a mind. I once heard a client who was in the process of recovering from a severe mental illness repeatedly say, ‘He has a mental illness,’ and he asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. He answered my question with a question, ‘Will the poor go bankrupt?’ He went on to say, ‘The loser is rich. If you don’t have one, you don’t have a friend. ‘ It’s like saying ‘Nothing to lose’.

Mental illness does not leave anyone in the lurch. It is a disorder that has disrupted the lives of many great people and has hampered the journey of the rich intellectuals. Of course, those who were healed and recovered were able to resume their lives with renewed vigor. Here is the experience of the famous artist Tilahun Gessesse. Tilahun was left depressed during the 1977 Dergu regime. It is indeed challenging to combine wisdom and compulsion.

In his book, The Story and Mystery of Tilahun Gesesse, Zechariah tells us that Tilahun was treated at Emmanuel Hospital for months and that other patients who were treating him at the time were overjoyed. This is mainly due to the fact that mental illness can affect anyone, especially celebrities like Tilahun.

So what choice do we have other than to jointly prevent any problem that might affect us? What is there that we need to take care of? Our mind is everything. Our hopes, our anxieties, our sorrows, our joys, our love are all wrapped up in our minds.

However, the current state of affairs in our country does not seem to take into account the importance of mental health. As a result, mental health problems worsen. According to a joint statement issued by the Ministry of Health on the occasion of World Mental Health Day two months ago, the prevalence of mental illness in our country has reached 27 percent. Drug addiction, coupled with unemployment, is pushing young people into a state of instability and mental illness. Unhealthy cultural distortions, extremism, and the ongoing conflict are undermining the social and economic fabric of society. It is not uncommon for children to be found wandering the streets on the streets. By the way, according to a survey conducted on the streets of Addis Ababa five years ago, 90% of the street people suffer from mental illness or addiction.

In general, many more points can be made to highlight the seriousness of our country’s mental health problems, but let’s move on from time to time. But I would like to give you some information to show you how weak the way we are dealing with this huge problem.

In terms of service coverage, less than 10 percent of people with severe mental illness have access to modern mental health care. According to a study conducted at Emmanuel Hospital, more than 70 percent of clients who seek medical treatment have failed to try other alternative cultural and spiritual methods. This means that for most consumers, modern psychiatry is not the first choice.

An important point to consider here is that mental illness is associated with many other issues, both in terms of its cause and its effect. For example, from an economic point of view, when a person suffers from mental illness, his productivity decreases. Unemployment and inefficiency are followed by the immediate family’s efforts to protect and care for the patient. At the same time, the individual crisis escalates into an economic crisis for the family and the local community. Given the link between economics and politics, it is easy to see that an economic crisis is a political crisis. Considering the fact that addiction and mental illness are particularly prevalent among the younger generation, we understand the issue. It is also clear that working on mental health is a key factor in bringing about national change.

Written by Editor


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