Thursday January 18, 2018

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.

0
//
82
Health workers carry the body of a suspected Ebola victim for burial at a cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Dec. 21, 2014.
Republish
Reprint

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.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

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.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

“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.”

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

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

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Gaming Disorder to be Recognized as an Health Issue Soon

WHO may soon recognize Gaming Disorder as a Mental Health condition due to its severe impact on a person's mental health.

0
//
26
WHO may add gaming disorder as a mental health condition
WHO may add gaming disorder as a mental health condition. wikimedia common
  • WHO is ready to recognize Gaming Disorder as a serious mental health issue.
  • Gaming disorder means, giving utmost importance to video games while ignoring other aspects of life.
  • Countries like China and Korea have already banned internet and gaming due to their harmful effects.

The World Health Organization is set to recognize gaming disorder as a serious mental health issue.

In its 11th International Classification of Disease, a diagnostic manual to be published next year, the U.N. health agency defines gaming disorder as a “persistent or recurrent” disorder that can cause “significant impairment” to the gamer’s life, including to family, education, work and friends.

The addiction to gaming can lead to severe mental heath conditions. Pixabay
The addiction to gaming can lead to severe mental heath conditions. Pixabay

The agency says the disorder is characterized by giving increasing priority to gaming, online and offline, over other aspects of everyday life.

Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, told CNN that the entry on the disorder “includes only a clinical description and not prevention and treatment options.”

According to a report released in 2016 by the gaming industry, 63 percent of U.S. households include a gamer who, on average, has been playing video games for 13 years.

The increasing popularity of video gaming became evident in the past three years when 50 U.S. colleges established varsity gaming teams, with scholarships, coaches and game analysts.

However, some countries, such as China and South Korea already consider the internet and gaming to be addictions and have created boot-camplike treatment facilities. VOA