By Alagie Manneh
A marathon was staged last Saturday to help raise awareness on mental health in The Gambia.
Organised by Supportive Activists Foundation, (Saf) – an organisation that works to support mentally ill individuals – in collaboration with Stichting Wereldwijd toegankelik – a Dutch foundation working to assist impoverished Gambians for over a decade now. The six kilometre run started from Brusubi turn-table to the Senegambia main junction.
More than 21 athletes drawn from various corners of the country took part in the run including some tourists. Organisers say it was the first ever mental health run in the country.
The number of people affected by mental disorders in The Gambia is significant.
Almost 90% of people with severe mental disorder in The Gambia are left without access to the treatment they need. There is limited infrastructure for mental health treatment and care in The Gambia, according to the WHO.
Solomon Correa, Saf founder, expressed hope that the run will help raise awareness of issues underpinning mental health care in The Gambia.
“We are hoping that this run will break the stigma surrounding mental health,” he told The Standard.
He said funds raised will be diverted into initiatives geared to making sure mental health is given the attention it deserves.
The founder said the objective was to reach the level of the authorities to raise their awareness of mental health and its effects.
Babucarr Jeng, PRO of Saf, called on Gambians to realise that “there cannot be any health without mental health.” He urged for concerted and synergised efforts.
At the end of the run, medals and presents were given to outstanding runners.
There was also a trophy named after a retired social health worker, Karem Sonko.
Correa hailed her for “dedicating all her life to fighting mental disorder in The Gambia and elsewhere.”