Ebola Concerns Abroad Mirror Behavioral Health Self-Medication Here at Home

As the Ebola epidemic ravages West Africa, the World Health Organization on Friday declared the situation an “international health emergency.” Nearly 1,000 people have died in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

According to reports, frightened residents of West Africa are rushing to find home remedies for the disease, including saltwater baths, especially after a Nigerian king—the Attah of Igala, Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni—suggested salt as a “magical vaccine” against the virus. The Nigerian government has issued a warning that salt baths are not a cure.

Ebola spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions. Because there is no medication and no cure, the most common treatment requires supporting organ functions and ensuring bodily fluids are maintained so the body can fight off the infection.

The fervent search for home remedies for Ebola in West Africa mirrors the actions of some here in America who need professional and scientifically based treatment or prescriptions for mental health or addiction issues, but choose instead to self-medicate because of the fear and stigma regarding treatment or the side effects of medications.

Even though these instances are worlds apart, the race to find a home remedy for Ebola in these West African communities is much like the way that mental health patients will try to ‘heal  themselves’ through taking any suggestion to feel better and protect themselves instead of seeking out the true help they need. We constantly look for a ‘miracle cure’ because we resist treatment, don’t want to put in the effort, are too impatient to wait for results, or don’t like the way certain psychiatric medications make us feel.

When we struggle with mental health issues or addiction, these plague us just like an epidemic virus. Our fear, insecurity and uncertainty cause us to claw for any option that might be an easier, quicker way to recovery and healing other than that of our doctor, whose plan might be longer and more intensive, but is really the best for us. In the same vein, God’s plan for bringing us through our struggles is the best for us, but our ‘me-centered’ outlook on life takes over, and we think we know the ‘cure’ better than He does. Both of these situations illustrate the self-medication lies we often tell ourselves. And they can be detrimental to both physical health and mental health.”

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