By Mustapha Ceesay
Psychology students at the University of the Gambia [UTG] on Sunday donated to Tanka Tanka psychiatric hospital basic commodities worth more than D20, 000.
The items are basic commodities such as bags of rice, sugar, cooking oil, mayonnaise, chocolate, onion, sanitary materials, milk powder, clothing, among others.
The gesture is born out of the usual one-day excursion Psychology students at UTG embark on to the facility. It is meant to familiarize themselves and deepen their knowledge on some of the topics taught to them, especially- abnormalities; given the role, the infirmary plays in treating mental health patients.
Presenting the items to the patients through a staff, Karfa Jassey, Pschology lecturer and coordinator of the trip said the move is UTG psychology students’ commitment towards their fellow human beings; while describing it as a ‘solidarity gesture’ from them.
Receiving the items on behalf of Tanka Tanka Hospital, Ebrima Bah, a psychiatric nurse assured the students that the gift will be used in the best way possible by the patients, not them [staff].
He said gestures of this kind are what they at Tanka Tanka advise people to do; before lamenting that many people in the society don’t think they exist due to their location. But the students are aware of them.
“It is a very good gesture. This is the kind of gesture we advise people to do. Because Tanka Tanka, we are isolated and many people don’t actually think that we exist. But this gesture tells us that you people [UTG Psychology students] in the society, actually don’t forget about us.”
One of the students, Sulayman Darboe who was visibly emotional, after being taken on a conducted tour of the various facilities within the infirmary, said after a semester lecture, the visit will help him and colleagues know what patients at the hospital face.
“We spent the last semester dealing with issues related to psychology, most especially the psychiatrist patients. This visit will help us to know about some of the issues that our brothers and sisters are facing in this Tanka Tanka Hospital.”
Another student, Fatou Jawneh said the visit will make a positive change in their attitudes towards mental health patients, noting that they have the right to live the same way as others. She called on everyone to support the patients.
Tanka Tanka is so far, The Gambia’s only mental health hospital, established in 2009. The hospital currently has 103 patients, 83 males and 20 females.
In October 2020, The Chronicle online newspaper in The Gambia reported that the number of people affected by mental disorders in the Gambia is very significant though not empirically quantified by a national study. The prevalence rate in our country is estimated to be between 27,300 (severe disorders) and 91,000 (all mental disorders) according to the WHO. Health officials say almost 90% of people with severe mental disorders in the Gambia are left without access to treatment while others are left homeless with no care by their families and the State.
The 10th Of October annually, is observed as World Mental Health Day. It was first celebrated in 1992. On the day, the awareness of the people on the subject is raised through advocacy.
NB: Buba Gagigo, one of the journalists at this medium immensely contributed to this story.