Wednesday November 22, 2017

Sierra Leone Grapples with Mental Health Impact of Ebola

Mental health is a much wider problem in Sierra Leone. An estimated 240,000 people in the country suffer from depression.

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Health workers carry the body of a suspected Ebola victim for burial at a cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Dec. 21, 2014.

With the recent Ebola crisis, officials in Sierra Leone have seen a rise in mental health concerns. Mustapha Kallon’s problems are typical. He survived Ebola but lost many family members during the epidemic.

“Whenever I think of my parents, I feel depressed,” he said.

Kallon said he turned to alcohol to cope with his grief. He was still receiving care in the Ebola treatment unit when his parents died from the virus. He didn’t get to say goodbye and doesn’t even know where they are buried.

Ebola survivor Mustapha Kallon says that "when I am among my colleague survivors, we explain to ourselves what we go through, and that helps us to forget about the past and face the future," April 6, 2017 (N. DeVries/VOA)
Ebola survivor Mustapha Kallon says that “when I am among my colleague survivors, we explain to ourselves what we go through, and that helps us to forget about the past and face the future,” April 6, 2017 (N. DeVries/VOA)

Sometimes Kallon goes with fellow Ebola survivors when they visit the graves of their loved ones.

‘I always cry’

“I feel like dying … I always cry when I am there,” he said. “I always feel pity, because I can’t find their graves.”

The corpses of people infected with Ebola can be very contagious. During the epidemic, burying the dead quickly and safely was so important to stopping transmission that proper records were not kept and some graves were left unmarked.

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From 2014 to 2016, the regional Ebola epidemic killed just over 11,000 people. Nearly all of them were in West Africa, with about 4,000 in Sierra Leone.

Mustapha Kallon stands with fellow survivor Brima Bockarie in Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 6, 2017. Kallon said that had he not reached out to others, he might not have been able to get through his depression. (N. DeVries/VOA)
Mustapha Kallon stands with fellow survivor Brima Bockarie in Freetown, Sierra Leone, April 6, 2017. Kallon said that had he not reached out to others, he might not have been able to get through his depression. (N. DeVries/VOA)

Those who survived the virus have faced stigma. Kallon was shunned by his community. It was only through support from the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors that he started to heal.

“When I am among my colleague survivors, we explain to ourselves what we go through, and that helps us to forget about the past and face the future,” he said.

Many of the Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone are going through similar struggles, said Dr. Stephen Sevalie, one of the country’s only psychiatrists.

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“Our data has not been analyzed yet, but I can tell you that mental health symptoms are quite high among Ebola survivors,” he said.

Scientists are studying a host of symptoms now known collectively as the post-Ebola syndrome. Symptoms include loss of eyesight, joint pain, and fatigue, as well as mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Mental health, however, is a much wider problem in Sierra Leone. An estimated 240,000 people in the country suffer from depression.

Help within communities

Florence Baingana, who heads the mental health team with the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone, said that as a result of the Ebola epidemic, the Ministry of Health, with the support of the WHO, has trained 60 community health officers.

“So we are trying to get services down to as many people as possible,” she said. “We are training health workers in psychological first aid so they can recognize and do some listening and be helping.”

Dr. Stephen Sevalie, one of Sierra Leone's only psychiatrists, says mental health problems "are quite high among Ebola survivors." He's pictured at a military hospital Freetown, April 6, 2017. (N. DeVries/VOA)
Dr. Stephen Sevalie, one of Sierra Leone’s only psychiatrists, says mental health problems “are quite high among Ebola survivors.” He’s pictured at a military hospital Freetown

Baingana added that it’s not just Ebola survivors who have been suffering from the epidemic. Health care workers, burial workers and others involved in response efforts have also reported mental health concerns.

Nadia Nana Yilla, who volunteered in communities to help raise awareness about Ebola, said hearing people’s painful stories took a toll at times.

“I cried endlessly,” she said. “For me, that’s my way of dealing with depression. I just isolate and seclude and cry it out … so sometimes if you cry, it really helps. If you can’t cry it out, you have to find someone to talk to.”

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And that is the message on this World Health Day, April 7: People need to talk to someone if they are feeling depressed.

Kallon said that had he not reached out to others, he might not have been able to get through his depression. And although it’s still hard at times, having that support around him helps, he said. VOA

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Poor Dental Health can Lead to Obesity in Children

The study found a direct relationship between poor dental health leading to a rise in BMI (Body Mass Index) and extra body fat.

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Poor Dental Health can Lead to Obesity in Children
Poor Dental Health can Lead to Obesity in Children. Pixabay
  • Worried about your child’s obesity problems? It’s high time you curbed his love for sugary drinks and junk food. A little focus on dental care may also prevent your child gaining excess weight, says a new study.

The study found a direct relationship between poor dental health leading to a rise in BMI (Body Mass Index) and extra body fat.

“Weight can be a sensitive subject, but if you talk about eating behaviors alongside dental health, you are looking at the issue from a different angle,” said Louise Arvidsson, a doctoral student at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

“The question is whether a healthy diet can have the effect also in young children. There has been a lot of focus on physical activity and mental health in children, but diet is an increasingly recognized aspect.”

The researchers reviewed the eating behavior, body fat and dental health of 271 small children. The height, weight and food intake of the children were kept under observation for one day and then checked for the prevalence of cariogenic microorganisms in saliva.

The results found that the children who had a higher amount of carries bacteria also had higher BMI and worse eating habits.

The children were suggested to consume whole grain products, 400-500 grams of fruit and vegetables per day, fish two to three times a week and a low intake of sugar and saturated fat.

Arvidsson mentioned in the thesis, conducted at the University’s Sahlgrenska Academy, that with good food comes increased self-esteem, better relationships with friends and fewer emotional problems

Rather, parents who try to change the regime of their children by asking them to eat less during childhood can see serious repercussions of overweight problems in later life.(IANS)

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Lack of Social Communication Skills may cause Increase in Health Problems

How can lack of Social communication skills affect your mental health?

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Lack of Social Communication Skills may cause Increase in Health Problems
Lack of Social Communication Skills may cause Increase in Health Problems. Pixabay
  • Are you left out by your friends due to improper communicative techniques? Beware, as it may take a toll on your health. New research reveals that people with poor social skills may be at a greater risk of developing mental as well as physical health problems.

Importance of Social Communication Skills in avoiding Mental Health Problems

Social skills refer to the communication skills that allow people to interact effectively and appropriately with others. They are mostly learned over time, originating in the family and continuing throughout life.

The use of technology, like texting, is probably one of the biggest impediments to developing social skills among young people nowadays, the researchers said.

“We have known for a long time that social skills are associated with mental health problems like depression and anxiety,” said Chrin Segrin, a professor at the University of Arizona.

“But it was not known definitively that social skills were also predictive of poorer physical health. Two variables — loneliness and stress — appear to be the glue that bind poor social skills to health. People with poor social communication skills have high levels of stress and loneliness in their lives,” Segrin added.

The researchers studied over 775 people, aged between 18 to 91 years, and were provided a questionnaire addressing their social communication skills, stress, loneliness, and mental and physical health.

The results found that the participants who had deficits in those skills reported more stress, loneliness, and poorer mental and physical health.

The study, published in the journal Health Communication, mentioned that while the negative effects of stress on the body have been known for a long time, loneliness is a more recently recognized health risk factor. It is as serious a risk as smoking, obesity or eating a high-fat diet with lack of exercise.(IANS)

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‘At one point, I even had suicidal thoughts and wanted to end things’, says Bollywood Actress Ileana D’Cruz

Actress Ileana D'Cruz was once suffering from depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Watch out what she has to say.

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Actress Ileana D'Cruz
Actress Ileana D'Cruz . wikimedia commons
  • Actress Ileana D’Cruz, who suffered depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder, says at one point in her life she felt suicidal.
  • But once she accepted herself, she started feeling better.

Actress Ileana D’Cruz suffered from Body Dysmorphic Disorder

At the 21st World Congress of Mental Health here on Sunday, Ileana had a tete-a-tete with Organising Chairman Sunil Mittal on her struggle with depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Ileana was also awarded the Woman of Substance Award for her efforts towards raising awareness about mental health, read a statement.

She said: “I was always a very self-conscious person and was picked on for my body type. I used to feel low and sad all the time but didn’t know I was suffering from depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder till I got help. All I wanted to do was to be accepted by everyone.

“At one point, I even had suicidal thoughts and wanted to end things. However, all of it changed when I accepted myself and what I was going through. I think that is the first step towards fighting depression.”

The “Barfi!” and “Rustom” actress said depression is “real” and people shouldn’t shy away from seeking help.

“It is a chemical imbalance in your brain and needs to be treated. Don’t sit back and think it will get okay but go get help. Like you have a sprain and go get yourself checked if you have depression, seek help,” she said, urging people to be like Winnie the Pooh. “He wore a crop top, ate his favorite food all day and loved himself, you can too.”

Ileana D’Cruz, whose mother was her biggest pillar of strength throughout, also said imperfections are a part of life.

“I am not saying that I had this miraculous recovery, every day is a process, every day is a step towards healing yourself and getting better. You are a human being and are allowed to be imperfect, and you are allowed to be flawed. There is a lot of beauty in your imperfections, in your uniqueness.

“You may look at us actors and think that ‘Oh my God, they are so pretty, so perfect’. But that’s not how it is. It takes two hours to get ready and look like this. Love yourself for who you are and trust me if you are happy from within, you are the most beautiful person and your smile is your best asset.”

Ileana D’Cruz said she decided to open up about her struggle because “as someone people look up to, even if I can help a handful of people cope, it is worth talking about it”.

The World Congress was organized by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), a global alliance of mental health professionals, national health associations, NGOs, policy experts and other institutions.( IANS)