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Fact Check: Senator Dillion Did Not Get Facts Right About the Number People with Mental Illness in Liberia

Monrovia – Appearing on a local radio in Monrovia, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon claimed that about one million people in Liberia have mental health disorder. But did the lawmaker get the fact right? We checked.

Report By: Varney Kelvin Sirleaf |LVL Fact Checker

Referencing a World Health Organization’s report, Senator Dillon asserted: “The WHO has reported that about 1 million people in Liberia are suffering mental health disorder”. He further claimed that the report he was relying upon was released “in the last few months”.

But when LVL Fact Checking Desk checked, we found that there has been no new report on Liberia’s mental health situation since 2017, and that the figure mentioned by the lawmaker was an exaggeration based on an outdated estimate.

According to the World Health Organization, there are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behavior, and relationships with others. Some mental disorders include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, and developmental disorders including autism.

The WHO estimates on Liberia Mental health situation released in March 2016 at the end of Liberia Mental Health Strategic Plan covering 2010-2015 showed that “as many as 1 in every 5 Liberians suffer a mild to moderate mental disorder”. But this estimate is outdated due to the released of subsequent studies and publication of an atlas on the country’s mental health situation.

The 2017 mental health atlas on Liberia, which is done every two to three years, is the latest available data on the country. It shows that the disease burden is estimated at 2,298.33 per 100,000 population. This means, the total number of people with mental illness in 2017 when the country’s population was estimated at 4,499,621 million was 103,416.139 — more than 103,000 people.

The chat above shows a snapshot of WHO Mental Health Atlas on Liberia for 2017 | Source WHO

However, there has been no recent study conducted on the country’s mental health situations since the 2017 mental health atlas was released by the WHO.

Further inquiries with mental health experts in the country show that “there is no prevalence data for mental health for over 13 years”.  Experts say they now rely on the 2017 WHO Atlas.

Another resource document, Mental Health Policy and Strategic plan for Liberia 2016-2021 developed by the Ministry of Health, estimates that “at least 400,000 people in Liberia suffers from mental health, epilepsy or addiction problems and about 130,000 from a severe form”. This estimate was made before the release of the atlas in 2017.


Based on the WHO’s 2017 atlas on Liberia’s mental health situation — the only available authoritative resource document — which puts the disease burden at 2,298.33 per 100,000 population and the estimates capture in the country’s mental health policy, the claim by Senator Dillion that “about one million people suffer mental disorder” in Liberia is an exaggeration of the current situation.

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Local Voices Liberia is a network of dedicated Liberian journalists based in the 15 counties working to lift the development concerns and progress of rural communities.

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