Communities should not stigmatise people living with mental health problems but rather give them support to access medical treatment.
The call was made on Monday as Rwanda marked the World Mental Health Day, at Ndera Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital.
The main objective was to raise awareness about mental health, promote effective integration of mental health services in community first aid services as well as sensitise people on how to detect signs and symptoms of mental problems.
According to Emmanuel Ntakiyisumba, a nursing coach at Ndera Hospital, most people still believe that mental problems cannot be cured and only seek help when the conditions are in their late (chronic) stages.
“This misconception has led to many patients developing serious problems on the nervous system, stroke and paralysis, a stage where little can be done to cure the condition permanently. At this stage, the only cure is to prescribe certain medications to the patients just to manage their mental illness,” he said.
He advised that to avoid such problems, patients should be given early treatment when they experience signs such as; insomnia, aggressiveness, nightmares, withdrawal from friends and activities, as well as extreme mood swings.
Stress, depression, family conflicts, sexual assault and drug addictions are said to be the main causes of mental illnesses.
Dr Yvonne Kayiteshonga, the Mental Health Division Manager at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), said society should help in fighting against stigma against mentally challenged people, to make the world better place for them.
“People suffering from mental problems are victims of human rights violations, stigma and other related social issues. It becomes a problem when society perceives it as an incurable condition, yet it’s curable as any other illness.
‘‘We don’t need to treat them, being one’s brother’s keeper will help keep mental problems and illness at bay,” she noted.
Ndera Hospital treats psychotic patients, drug addicts, epilepsy, schizophrenia and mood disorders.
A report compiled by Ndera Hospital (2015/16), showed that 60,511 people had been admitted to the hospital due to various mental problems, most being in the 25-35 age bracket.
Most of the causes were attributed to drug problems, stress and depression, and witnessing violence.