Mental health patients lack support — ICRC

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An untold number of people are struggling with mental health disorders in South Sudan without the care they need, the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.

In a statement to mark the international mental health day on Saturday, ICRC says many people are suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems caused by years of conflict and violence in the country.

But those with mental health disorders are not receiving the support they need, especially in rural areas of the country.

“This is because either services are not available, or because of the taboo that often surrounds mental health needs prevent people to access care,” the ICRC said on Friday.

Official statistics on mental health issues are not readily available, but ICRC says it supported up to 1,200 patients with mental health and psychosocial support services this year.

According to the charity, “symptoms linked to depression and anxiety were the most common issues reported, an indication of what many in South Sudan may suffer from in silence.”

This year, there has been a wave of suicide-related deaths, blamed on unattended mental issues.

According to Reverend Canon Emmanuel Nathaniel, a counselor at the South Sudan Council of Churches, people with mental disorders should be taken care of.

“Those who are committing suicide feel they are not accepted in the community that they are in,” he told Eye Radio on Friday.

“We need to come closer to them to find out their problems, try to ease their problems, try to make or create a conducive environment for these people who have mental disorders.”

Rev. Nathaniel added: “We need to provide them with a conducive environment whereby that can begin to see life from a different perspective from what they are used to. We need to give them the care, the attention, the love, then we will be able to help them to realize their importance in life.”

Globally, according to the World Health Organization, more than one person in five in conflict-affected areas live with some form of mental health problems, from mild depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The ICRC in South Sudan says it is working with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare to expand mental health and psychosocial support services.

According to the ICRC, it trained 70 health care workers this year to enable them to identify common mental health issues and provide basic psychological support and counseling so that such services can be integrated into overall patient care.

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