Ethiopia’s mentally impaired suffer stigma: Study


Between 17 and 20 percent of Ethiopia’s population of around 96 million suffers mental disorders, a new research has shown.

Worse still, the majority of those with mental disorders are stigmatized and given insufficient healthcare, the research, which was made by Addis Ababa University, added.

“Most of those with serious mental disorders are chained and maltreated by their families due to the lack of awareness,” Atalay Alem, a psychiatry professor at the university, said.

“Stigma and the absence of adequate [health] services make things worse [for these patients,” Atalay told Anadolu Agency.

There is the belief in society, the research says, that mental disorders are caused by evil spirits.

Consequently, the families of people with mental disorders seek treatment, not in hospitals or clinics, but with traditional and religious healers, it adds.

These families only go to health institutions after they fail to find treatment with these healers.


Nevertheless, a patient has to present proof that he/she is poor before the Health Ministry can give him/her free care.

And when this patient present presents poverty proof, he/she is faced with the challenge of finding care-providers as these providers are making themselves scarce across this African state.

This is the case at Amanuel Specialized Mental Hospital, the oldest specialized mental healthcare center in Ethiopia.

The hospital suffers shortage of skilled staff, drugs and other required materials.

There are not enough rooms at the hospital where specialists can talk to their patients in private.

Atalay threw a bombshell when he revealed that there were 55 psychiatrists only in the whole of Ethiopia.

He said this number is so small compared with demand for treatment in the country.

According to Ethiopia’s Health Ministry, mental disorders represent 11 percent of the overall burden of health hazards in the country.

The ministry adds that one in every ten patients only receives medical treatment, while other patients are left out in the cold.

-Bucking trend-

Some people with mental disorders can be seen on the streets of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

They are ones who cannot be controlled by either their families or the country’s scarce health institutions.

However, Aynalem Tessema, whose son suffers mental disorders, bucks this trend.

The poor 70-year-old woman, who lives in the western part of Addis Ababa, said her son stopped to be well since he fell on the ground from bed when he was six months old.

“I took him to different hospitals, but there was no change,” Aynalem told Anadolu Agency.

She says she has to keep her son at home all the time and not let him go out, giving him medicines she gets for free from the Health Ministry on time.

“I will never let my son to go out of our home,” Aynalem said.

She added that her son never spoke or heard since he was a baby.