The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Saturday expressed concern over the dramatic spike in mental ailments in South Sudan linked to civil strife.
ICRC said that more than 1,200 patients with depression and anxiety were already receiving psychosocial support in several parts of the country.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health and more needs to be done to ensure that people have access to the care they need and that they don’t face stigma for seeking help,” ICRC said in a statement issued in Juba.
The international charity said that mentally ill civilians in the world’s youngest nation suffer in silence amid stigma and limited access to quality treatment.
“Far too many people suffer in silence for months, years, and even decades because of fear, shame, and misconceptions about mental health,” said ICRC. “We want people to know that mental health problems are common, especially after years of war, and it is ok to seek help no matter the cause of the mental distress,” the charity added.
According to the World Health Organization, more than one in five civilians residing in areas affected by conflict have some form of mental health challenges, ranging from mild depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“In South Sudan, there are things that people fear to talk about,” said Thimon Ozinga Ismail, ICRC’s mental health and psychosocial support field officer in Juba.
“They fear that talking about mental issues can spoil the family history, the community, or clan history. They also fear that people will think they are wicked, mad, or that if they raise these issues, it would bring violence to their family,” he added.
Currently, ICRC’s mental health teams have been offering counseling sessions in primary health care centers, surgical wards and physical rehabilitation centers to look after patients’ physical and psychological health.