World Mental Health Day , 2022

'Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority'.

Every year October 10 is celebrated as World Mental Health Day. 'Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority' is the theme for 2022. Against this theme mentally ill patients in the besieged Tigray are denied of mental health services including medications for the last 17 months and it has continued.

Armed conflict related problems are high in the general population and it is a double burden for mentally ill patients. Armed conflicts are linked to mental health consequences that disproportionately burden vulnerable populations such as women and children. A study conducted in IDPs of Tigray revealed the magnitude of moderate to severe depression and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as 67% and 57.7% respectively.

To understand the horrific nature of the problem, please read the true story of gang raped woman shared below.

A 30 year old female client from “Gerihu Siernay”,a semi urban town around the Eritrean border, visited Ayder Hospital. She was sexually assaulted in a village found in the outskirt of the town by four Eritrean troops. The incident happened during the initial phase of the war, November 2020. It was when, frightened by the continuous shelling and bombing of the town and the subsequent corpses and carcasses, she was trying to flee from the chaos of the town to the nearest district called Enticho. The troops grabbed and took her to a place she can’t recall and raped her one after the other. She was with her nine and eleven year old daughters. While being raped, she was told “you shabby and grubby people are lucky to have sex with an Eritrean without a condom.”

Later on when she woke up and started to look for her children she saw her older daughter being raped by an Ethiopian soldier. After she was released, ashamed and threatened and knowing that her husband is murdered and her home demolished, she fled and travelled for hours on foot. Currently, she is living with her children in IDP shelter in the capital city of Tigray, Mekelle. 

She is now a victim of HIV/AIDS. She has depressed mood, sleep problems, nightmares, flashbacks, feeling of loneliness, excessive worry concerning her future and suicidal intentions. She has been on treatment follow-up for mental illness and HIV. After starting  the treatment she had some  improvements and was looking after her children. But now she has been forced to stop taking her medications as there are no mental health drugs in the region at all and her symptoms are back again. she is no longer trying to take care of her children. Currently she is in a bad situation! We know how to help her but we just don’t have the means needed including drugs. And, this is the fate of every mentally ill patient in the region. 

Consent is taken from the client.

Case reported by KinfeTesfay (Associate professor in mental health, Ayder)

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