LIBERIA: Pro Tempore Concern About Building Mental Health Centers

The President Pro Tempore of the Senate has recommended that government construct a health center and fully equip it to treat all sicknesses associated with mental health and employ the services of well-trained psychotherapists, like the late Dr. J. Oliver Duncan, who specialized in clinical psychology.

According to a local daily, the President Pro Tempore  observed that the country’s current Rehabilitation Centers can no longer cater to the needs of people with mental disorder.

“It is time we feel deeply ashamed taking pride in seeking medical attention abroad. We must now care for our very own and stop making referrals of cases to foreign countries, especially countries that are far younger than our democracy. We must now take steps to upgrade our health system to international standard, Pro Tempore Armah Zulu Jallah declared.

The Gbarpolu County Lawmaker’s statement was contained in a speech he delivered at the graduation and culmination of the Carter Center training and certification of 166 general Mental Health Clinicians last Friday at the Administrative Building in Gbarnga, Bong County.

If an economy must be productive and vibrant, Pro Tempore Jallah maintained that there must be healthy and physically fit communities. “The health of a nation is therefore paramount in any national development agenda as such the health sector must remain a compelling priority.”

He reflected that the experience and trauma of the 14 years of war in Liberia continues to linger mainly on the minds of those who were severely tortured, witnessing relatives brutally murdered or sexually abused in front of them triggering an increase in the number of mentally affected citizens.

Senator Jallah noted that the resolve of the Carter Center to train specialists to effectively deal with this segment of the population is laudable, and is a contribution that will reduce the mentally deranged population.

Quoting from French General Napoleon Bonaparte and Dr. Denis Waitley, Pro Tempore Jallah said:”Courage is not having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don’t have strength” and “There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”

He commended Carter Center for not choosing to discriminate against the country’s mentally ill population or opting that they be ostracized. “You have both accepted their conditions and the responsibility to deal with them. You have given us courage and strength and the willingness to co-exist with them.”

Throughout the ages, Senator Jallah recalled, the mentally disturbed have been viewed with a mixture of fear and repulsion. Their fate generally has been one of rejection, neglect, and unkind treatment from members of their communities.

He said the necessity for the study of Mental Health is clearly very important in any human society,” but unfortunately, in Liberia today, institutions of higher learning have not done much in this regard.

This truth is evident by the academic awards bestowed on medical students ranging from nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, pediatricians, midwifery, and doctors but very rarely do we see or hear any award in mental health.”

He continued: “This is a challenge to our medical institutions across the country to solidify and encourage medical students to go for degrees in mental health because our country is in need of them just as it is in need of nurses and doctors.”

The country’s uphill task then, according to Pro Tempore Jallah, is to produce the requisite environment necessary for the mental development of the individual because, he noted, socio-economic well-being is a determinant factor in the growth of the individual and society. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., he quoted: “a man must have food for his body, education and culture for his mind, and freedom and dignity for his spirit.”

He challenged the graduates to exercise the most discreet etiquette of their profession in the discharge of their role to purge society of illnesses of all kinds especially mental illness, “because the least neglect in your sworn pledge to save lives would result in the loss of more lives.”

Senator Jallah again borrowed from French General Napoleon Bonaparte who commenting on a similar situation once said: “Doctors will have more lives to answer for in the next world than even we generals.”

Jallah warned: “You will have to answer for the loss of lives if you behave unkindly and ungenerously to your patients. You will have to answer for the loss of lives if you adopt hostile postures and transfer your aggressions and frustrations to your patients.”

He then paid homage to former United States First Lady Rosalynn Carter for establishing the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program in 1991, and for subsequently launching her five-year initia¬tive in 2010 in Liberia to help the Ministry of Health create a sustainable mental health system to address a broad range of mental health conditions.

Written By: J. Burgess Carter

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