Today is World Mental Health Day: Sierra Leone Recorded 1.5m People Using Illegal Drugs

18. 10. 10
posted by: By Bai-Bai Sesay

World Mental Health Day (10 October) is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.

It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.

This day, every October, thousands of supporters come to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples' life worldwide

The World Federation for Mental Health is focusing the 2018 World Mental Health Day campaign on the theme: Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.  They want to bring attention to the issues our youth and young adults are facing in our world today and begin the conversation around what they need in order to grow up healthy, happy and resilient.

Let’s all use this year to emphasize the needs of our young people. It’s time to take a stand and demand more for this vulnerable population – our future depends on it!  These are some of the words quoted from the world federation for mental health.

In Sierra Leone, half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated. In terms of the burden of the disease among adolescents, depression is the third leading cause. Harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs among adolescents is a major issue. Eating disorders are also of concern.

Talking to Dr. Edward Nahim, a consultant psychiatrist in the ministry of health ahead of the world mental health on the theme: Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World, he told this press that the three main illegal drugs prevalent in Sierra Leone at the domestic level still remained cannabis sativa (diamba), brown brown and cocaine.

“Cannabis sativa is the most commonly used illegal drug and account for over 98% of the teenage and adult population in Sierra Leone between the ages of 14 and 40 using illegal drugs”, he reiterated.

He added that around 80% of users of cannabis sativa are also taking brown brown, while less than 2% are using cocaine.

“The local use of cocaine is a new phenomenon and is prevalent among the 40 year-old age group,” he noted.

Dr. Nahim who has been working as consultant psychiatrist for more than 38 years disclosed that the number of persons addicted to illegal drugs in Sierra Leone rose to around one and the half million people between the ages of 14 and 60.

He pointed out that the population in Sierra Leone is now around seven million inhabitants, this means that presently close to 22% of the teenage and adult population (14 years and over) are addicted to illegal drugs.

The long serving psychiatrist went further to state that, there is a growing recognition of the importance of helping young people build mental resilience, from the earliest ages, in order to cope with the challenges of today’s world.

“Evidence is growing that promoting and protecting adolescent health brings benefits not just to adolescents’ health, both in the short- and the long-term, but also to economies and society, with healthy young adults able to make greater contributions to the workforce, their families and communities and society as a whole,” he pointed out.

He advised that much can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age to help prevent mental distress and illness among adolescents and young adults, and to manage and recover from mental illness.

“Prevention begins with being aware of and understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness. Parents and teachers can help build life skills of children and adolescents to help them cope with everyday challenges at home and at school. Psychosocial support can be provided in schools and other community settings and of course training for health workers to enable them to detect and manage mental health disorders can be put in place, improved or expanded,” he added.

He said: “investment by governments and the involvement of the social, health and education sectors in comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based programmes for the mental health of young people is essential. This investment should be linked to programmes to raise awareness among adolescents and young adults of ways to look after their mental health and to help peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students”. This, he said is the focus for this year’s World Mental Health Day.