Friday, April 19, 2024
SocietyMind over matter: The urgency of mental healthcare in Ethiopia

Mind over matter: The urgency of mental healthcare in Ethiopia

Mental healthcare is a critical aspect of overall wellbeing, yet it has often been overlooked and stigmatized in many societies, including Ethiopia. However, there is a promising trend of growing recognition of the importance of mental health and an increasing number of individuals seeking professional help. There is a major need for psychological care in Ethiopia because for years, stigma surrounding it has held the country back.

Ethiopia, like many nations, faces significant mental healthcare challenges. As per global mental health statistics, approximately 12 percent of Ethiopia’s population suffers from mental health conditions. The vast array of disorders includes depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and substance abuse – all putting a heavy burden on the country’s psyche.

A plethora of factors drive the demand for psychological health services in Ethiopia. First, the nation has weathered various social and economic storms that can detrimentally impact one’s mental health. Cultural traditions and norms may also perpetuate the stigma against addressing these issues, dissuading individuals from seeking help and deepening the dilemma.

Individuals are looking for help at a much higher rate compared to a decade ago. The stigma around mental wellness, which for so long created taboos, has been declining in recent years. Many Ethiopians are now learning to accept that psychological health issues are real problems faced by many.

Solomon Habte, 28, was diagnosed with depression after finally seeking help from a psychiatrist after months of suffering on his own. The condition started when his business start-up completely failed. That, combined with recently losing a loved one and struggling financially amid Ethiopia’s economic challenges, caused him to experience symptoms of depression.

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“The stress of my unstable job and Ethiopia’s instability pushed me into a deep depression,” he explained. “Every day, my condition worsened but I was afraid to seek professional help due to the stigma surrounding mental wellness issues.”

It took Solomon a couple of months to realize he urgently required help; his condition had deteriorated to the point where he became reclusive for weeks at a time. Though he eventually decided to consult a psychiatrist, he remained circumspect about this decision with close friends and family, convinced they would disapprove.

Finding a psychiatrist proved difficult as well, requiring significant research before Solomon finally went to Lebeza Hospital for treatment. While he has improved, he continues to refrain from discussing this openly due to persisting social stigmas.

One of the greatest impediments to addressing mental health in Ethiopia is the persistence of stigma and misconceptions. Psychological disorders are often misunderstood, with some ascribing them to frailty of character, corrupt morals, or even possession by evil spirits. These misconceptions foster a culture of shame and silence, preventing individuals from openly discussing their struggles and seeking appropriate care.

It is imperative to dispel misconceptions about mental health in order to create an environment that supports mental wellbeing. Public awareness campaigns, community education programs, and collaboration with religious and traditional leaders can significantly challenge stigma by cultivating a more empathetic and understanding society.

Despite these challenges, Ethiopia has recognized the urgency to address the mental health crisis and has taken steps to improve mental healthcare services. One such step has been the development of a National Mental Health Strategy, which aims to improve accessibility and affordability of the services across the country. Integrating mental health into primary healthcare settings has been prioritized to ensure accessibility and affordability.

Furthermore, the government has worked to train and deploy health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, to bridge the gap in mental care provision. The objective of these initiatives is to upsurge the availability of culturally sensitive and evidence-based interventions to meet the rising demand for mental healthcare.

Ethiopia has seen a noteworthy rise in recent years in the number of individuals seeking professional help for psychological issues. This shift can be attributed to several factors. Chiefly, increased awareness and education have played a critical role in mitigating stigma and encouraging individuals to seek help free from judgment or discrimination.

The tidal wave of changes has been gathering steam partly due to advocacy by mental health organizations and individuals sharing their personal recovery journeys – profoundly impacting public perception and understanding of mental wellness. Such initiatives have contributed to a broader cultural sea change, where seeking professional help is seen as a proactive step towards wellness rather than a sign of weakness.

The availability and integration of mental health services in diverse settings, including primary healthcare centers, has improved accessibility, making it easier for individuals to get assistance. It has helped to normalize the treatment and motivate individuals to seek help alongside physical health concerns.

By acknowledging the exigency for it, leveling stigma, and fostering help-seeking propensity, Ethiopia can engender a society that privileges the welfare of its populace.

The uptick in the number of people pursuing professional help for mental healthcare issues compared to a decade prior is a hopeful harbinger of headway. It reflects a burgeoning cognizance of it’s urgency and the gradual chipping away of societal barriers.

Yet, more work must be done to ensure that healthcare provisions are available, culturally adapted, and sufficiently resourced across the nation.

Overcoming key obstacles like stigma, misconceptions and lack of resources remains critical to building a healthier population that prioritizes mental wellbeing. By investing in infrastructure, bolstering communal edification, and sustaining individuals in their mental health journeys, Ethiopia can breed healthier and more resilient populace. It demands a holistic approach involving consciousness raising, debunking myths, and multiplying access to quality psychological health provisions.

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