Ebola survivors continue to face mental health consequences

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Ebola survivors continue to face mental health consequences

More than 11,000 people died when Ebola swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia over a two-year period beginning in December 2013. While the physical symptoms may have faded, the psychological impact is still ever-present.


The World Health Organization projects that 163,000 Liberians are at risk of severe mental illness. Some 17,000 people were infected and lived to tell about it.

Whether they experienced the infection first hand, or witnessed loved ones dying- those invisible scars still exist.

CCTV Africa’s Katerina Vittozzi follows Jerald, a 32-year-old Ebola survivor in Liberia.

“Life before 2014, I was an employee of JFK, the national referral hospital. I had my family, I had my fiance, my children. And we were all living together, living a normal life. We started hearing about this virus in 2014. And we heard that this virus was in Guinea, and later we heard of it in Sierra Leone,” Jerald said.

Jerald said his illness started with pain in his hands.

Source: World Health Organization via Statista.

“But then after two days, the first day the second day, I started feeling cold. I took the brochure that they gave us to read on Ebola and I started going through and I started taking into consideration those symptoms and then one after another, one after another, and I said, this could be sort of a serious thing,” he said.

When he went to the hospital, things quickly got worse.

“While they were fixing the bed, I dropped on my hands. And I could not lift up my hands again,” Jerald said.

After treatment, he was finally deemed well enough to leave the facility.

Source: Time via Statista

“But when I left the ETU the first mental issue I started experiencing was flashbacks. Thinking about my life in the ETU. I always had that flashback all the time,” he said.

He said he willed himself to get past these emotions.

“So what I did to defeat my situation was I reached into my mind and said ‘I am a normal person. I have to get back on my feet. I don’t need to wait for people to come to my house all of the time to say, ‘You need to get this, you need to get this’,” he said.

Source: World Health Organization via Statista.

He added that many friends also experienced similiar feelings.

“Some of them would tell me, ‘Oh you know, I am faced with this problem and I need this intervention, I will kill myself because people are stigmatizing me’,” Jerald said.

The head of UNICEF in Liberia, Sheldon Yett, said these experiences are common in Liberia. The government estimates that about 8,000 children lost either one or both parents to Ebola.

“The need for psycho-social support for all the children affected by this disease is massive. The cameras have gone home, the journalists have left, the dead bodies are off the street, but the needs are still there,” Yett said. “That’s something that stays with you, it’s not something that goes away overnight.”