By Swaliho Vandi
President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday 4th June 2020 officially unveiled and toured the newly renovated Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital located at Kissy in the east end of Freetown.
President Bio thanked the Partners In Health and Handicap International for investing so much into the country’s only psychiatric hospital.
He went on to say that his government strongly believes that improving and promoting mental health care in the country is an essential step in achieving Universal Health Care Coverage for all.
He added that investing in mental health will help improve the human capital development of the nation. He further stated that promoting mental health promotes human rights and reduces social and economic disparities.
Speaking on why everyone must give support to the promotion of mental health in Sierra Leone, President Bio said the country has gone through many traumatic events ranging from the eleven years rebel war, to the Ebola, mudslide and now the Coronavirus pandemic. He said most of the above left many Sierra Leoneans traumatized and led to mental health issues. He therefore called on all to support government as it invests in mental health which will help save the future generation of this country.
Responding to challenges of the hospital put forward to him by the Psychiatric-in-Charge Dr. Abdul Jalloh, President Bio ordered that the 21 mental health nurses at the hospital who are currently not on government payroll be given Pin Codes by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation effective immediately.
He further ordered that the Health Ministry through the National Medical Supplies Agency assign an ambulance to the Psychiatric Hospital effective immediately. He added that his government will establish a special department at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences for the training of mental health professionals at different levels while adding that his government is fully committed to promoting mental health in Sierra Leone.
President Bio ended by urging collaboration among partners and policy makers to work out the following within 90 days and present to parliament for due consideration;
- Collect credible data on mental health in Sierra Leone with specific emphasis on types, numbers, concentrations, determinants and other factors that continue to adversely affect mental health in Sierra Leone.
- To fast track repealing and replacing the 1802 lunacy law with new mental health law that is culturally sensitive while meeting international standards.
- Identify and replace old laws with relevant one that will help the smooth implementation of the mental health policies in the country.
- And study mental health care in the country and come up with policies, institutional and administrative proposals for effective implementation.
President Bio used the occasion to inform the public that his government through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation will use the ECOWAS Commission’s agreement to establish the first drug trauma rehabilitation center in Sierra Leone.