JFK urges Sierra Leone Government to Draft a Bill for Mental Health Law

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Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara

By Foday Moriba Conteh

Chairman/Head of Chambers of JFK & Partners, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, has on Thursday10th October 2019 urged the Government of Sierra Leone to draft a Bill for Mental Health Law in order to recognize and guarantee the fundamental rights of the people living with mental illness or disability, in specific, their right to personal liberty and healthcare”.

He made this disclosure in line with the commemoration of “World Mental Health Day” celebration with the theme: “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention” geared towards promoting and creating awareness of people with mental illnesses all over the world.

Speaking to this medium in an interview, Chairman/Head of Chambers of JFK& Partners Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara said  people with mental illnesses have the right to life, right to security, right to shelter etc. He added that those rights should be safeguarded within legislation lamenting how there is still no Mental Health Law in the country that protects people with mental illnesses stating that it is against such  a backdrop that he is urging the Government of Sierra Leone to the draft a Bill for a Mental Health Law in order to recognize and guarantee the fundamental rights of the people with mental illnesses or disability, in specific, their right to personal liberty and their right to healthcare.

He highlighted how the Bill will cater for the judicial regularization of the care, protection, and dignity of those facing mental health problems in terms of treatment and hospitalization.

He disclosed that in the past few decades he has witnessed the gradual increase of suicidal behavior which has reached alarming statistical levels in the world as a whole, adding that Sierra Leone’s record on suicide has remained low over the past years.

He noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has made suicide a priority issue to contend with because of its alarming statistical levels in the world as a whole.

JFK stated that he will rather redirect the focus on physical violence against Mental Health victims as he emphasized that for decades now physical violence, such as sexual assault, rape, wounding and torture, have generated the greatest interest of most Governments.

The erudite legal luminary posited that the recent spate of violence  in the country has reached a worrisome level for any peace loving citizen and reports of threats of violence and physical attacks likened to ‘Mafiaso gangsterism’ of the 1940s have reared its ugly head ,surprisingly unaddressed and rife with impunity. He said of greatest concern is the exposure of mental health patients to these vicious physical attacks including rape.

“I vividly recall that in my youthful days in Makeni we had a mentally challenged lady by the name of Ya Alimamy. I had seen her being pregnant on two occasions and in my young mind was quite curious to know who was responsible for her pregnancy. One side was telling me that another patient could have done the deed. But alas, when the child was born rumors had it that the offspring produced had features that were genetically Middle Eastern linked. The truth may never be known but she must have been exploited because of her circumstance,” he reminiscence.

He lamented that in a recent video, ‘Blakka’, a barber with mental challenges, appeared bloodily wounded and battered, with no trace of the assailants furthering how the social media is replete with videos of torture, beatings and acid being poured on victims of violence in our country adding that the perpetrators were identified but no action was taken or known to have been taken stressing how impunity continues to linger in the corridors of crime.

He called on the security apparatus of the State, to rise up and live up to expectations cautioning that politicizing State Security is a recipe for national chaos and war, noting that history has taught us that state security has helped to fuel  riots referencing the Umbrella protests in Hong Kong and the Green Vests in France etc.

He noted that to aspire towards achieving an improved mental health care it should be a collective responsibility of all stakeholders, inclusive of the private sector. He said , in an allegorical sense, that it takes both the sun and the rain to grow a palm tree and reminded anyone who feels stuck at the tuber stage, waiting only for the rain should not forget that the rays of the sun will have to shine to complete the growth.

“In today’s economic challenges, when everything seems dark it’s important to appreciate the sparkle of light. A well-defined and national cohesive political will shall provide sunlight to permeate through the dark crevice of our governance structure. May the Mental World Health Day lighten our vision and understanding of offering protection to the vulnerable, especially those affected by mental health issues,” he concluded.

 

 

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