Mental illness has been in the news again with the story of Germanwings Flight 9525 which is thought to have been intentionally crashed in the French Alps by its co-pilot Andreas Lubitz. Lubitz appears to have had a history of suffering from mental health problems.
This comes a few months after the passing of comedian Robin Williams who committed suicide after struggling with depression. Mental illness should not simply be seen as a product of the rich or ‘westernised’ world; it can affect all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and socioeconomic classes.
According to the World Health Organzation, approximately 450 million people worldwide suffer from a mental or behavioural disorder. The United Nations recognises mental health as a human right essential for wellbeing and social development yet there are millions of people, particularly in developing countries, who lack access to basic mental health services.
Sudan was one of the first African countries to have practicing psychiatrists. For example, Dr Tigani Al-Mahi founded a psychiatry clinic in Khartoum as early as 1949.
However, to this day, mental health services in the country remain poorly developed and under-resourced. Although Sudan’s mental health policy was re-formulated in 2008, mental health continues to receive very little attention from the government and is not high on the list of priorities for policy-makers.