‘#WorldMentalHealthDay’ means something so different in Mozambique. There is virtually non-existent diagnosis, treatment & care and very little understanding. This photo above is the reality of having a mental condition in many developing countries across the world. This is a patient with psychosis without a bed, blanket or treatment.
BUT within the Diocese of Niassa, pioneering work, training mental health clinical officers is going on to diagnose and treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and epilepsy. Spearheaded by Dr Peg Cumberland this amazing & very tough work goes on and MANNA supports her to enable this to happen.
She sent us this story that happened last week:
“Paula (not her real name) is a 33 yr old mother of 9. Her youngest child is 14 months. She lives in a remote community, 2 days journey on the back of a motorbike (there’s no other transport apart from walking or cycling), from Cobue, which is where I met her after a family member came looking for me, asking for help.
When I first saw her she was sitting huddled against a wall, knees clutched to her chest, mute and almost motionless apart from her eyes, which darted around, following me fearfully. She was very thin and dehydrated. The family told me she’d been well until 3 months previously when she began complaining of her head spinning and of chest palpitations. Sometimes she seemed scared, saying she could see people in the distance who were threatening her and hiding in the house if she heard a motorcycle going past. During the next 3 months she became increasingly withdrawn. A week before I saw her she stopped speaking entirely and in the past 5 days she’d eaten nothing and taken only a few sips of water. The family were afraid she was going to starve to death and they were right to be afraid as, untreated, she’d have died from dehydration.
Happily now she’s taking inexpensive medication to treat her psychosis, she’s making a good recovery, talking, taking food and fluids and much less afraid. She’ll need to continue medication for several months, which presents logistical challenges because she lives so far away and the family are very poor, but with on-going treatment she should do well. Treating patients like Paula is immensely satisfying but there are many people like her who suffer terribly, and sometimes die, because communities attribute their symptoms to the actions of displeased ancestral spirits or being cursed and health staff haven’t been trained in how to help them. Lots to be done.”
Peg has been training district mental health clinical officers and travels around to assess, discuss treatments, train and build up capacity within the local hospitals and clinics in Niassa province.
It’s critical this is better funded and that we make more awareness of this in developing countries.