On mental health

Mental health.

As news circulates around the recent passing of Anthony Bourdain – a cultural phenomenon and a man who has inspired millions – it brings to light a subject that varies between cultures. Mental health continues to be a growing issue throughout the world across multiple cultures and countries.

This past week, I was able to visit hospitals and found an interesting fact:

Mental health patients are admitted to the hospital are the least across all sectors.

This is for a multitude of reasons. For starters, in Ethiopian culture they believe that mental health issues are directly related to their spiritual relationship with God. This results in a reliance in church and spiritual healing as opposed to a hospital visit. This is a common belief across many African countries and have been a growing concern throughout the years for the refusal of medical care. To make matters worse, the highest rates of these mental health conditions are in poverty-stricken areas in the rural areas of Ethiopia.

Through my findings with the government hospitals in Ethiopia, it was found that there was a great economic disparity between the rural and urban hospitals. In the urban hospitals, patients who were unable to pay for care and had no medical insurance were still able to receive emergency OPD treatment and other basic services. If the patient had expensive pharmaceutical drugs or supplies that were needed, the hospitals would cover the costs. However, in the rural hospitals if there was an emergency OPD patient that was admitted they would be able to be treated but in a non-emergency OPD situation – this would not be the case. If a patient in a rural hospital were seeking medical treatment or required medication that had to be purchased for another hospital and was unable to pay for treatment, they would not be able to receive treatment. This would only be in cases where the individual did not have medical insurance. In rare cases, where the patients had a personal relationship with one of the general practitioners in the hospital, they would be able to have fundraisers in order to pay for the patient.

Combining the inability of rural hospitals to provide care for low-income patients along with the majority of the Ethiopian population inhabiting rural areas creates a dangerous mix. For the millions that need treatment – regardless of the issue being mental health, neonatal care, or elderly care, the inability to the hospitals to provide adequate care puts pressure on communities to rely on spiritual care and healing.

For the hundreds of thousands of mental health patients that are unable to be treated because of this speaks to the importance for other organization to make an impact on these regions. In a country that has recently been a part of a state of emergency and has a history of discrimination towards ethnic groups and ware fare, mental health should be of high importance. In order for there to be an improvement to the health care system in Ethiopia, there needs to be an active participation from the local community and at the governmental level as well.

Henock Asaye is a T’20 Undergraduate.

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