Cameroon: 'If the Brain Doesn't Work, the Rest Doesn't Matter'

Our brains are currently at serious risk because of diseases such as epilepsy, stroke, AIDS, dementia as well as so on. There is actually also danger coming from drug abuse as well as addictions, especially amongst youths, resulting in behavioural disorders which contribute to some of the major crises the nation is actually facing. Therefore, brain or mental health problems stand among the most common as well as severe in Cameroon. from the following interview, Prof. Alfred Kongnyu Njamnshi, lecturer, Faculty of Medicine as well as Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaounde I, talks on the gravity as well as challenges of managing brain health in Cameroon.

Brain Research Africa Initiative, BRAIN, recently organised a conference in Yaounde. May we know why such a gathering at that will time?

Please, permit me to begin by saying who we are as well as what we do. Brain Research Africa Initiative, BRAIN, is actually an international organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland where we develop the status of a public utility organisation. In Cameroon, we partner with several institutions as well as organisations, the first being the Government, to promote brain health. We have more than two decades of experience in promoting brain health in Cameroon as well as various other African countries through research, training as well as care provision. During the 2018 National Youth Day, BRAIN celebrated 20 years of research, highlighting one of the most common brain diseases, epilepsy. that will was because the event coincided with the International Epilepsy Day. As follow-up to that will event, as well as under the distinguished patronage of the Prime Minister, Head of Government, we organised the first BRAIN Week in Cameroon coming from July 15-22, 2018. the idea climaxed with the celebration of the globe Brain Day (July 22nd) instituted by the globe Federation of Neurology. Several activities were carried out in 7 of the 10 regions of the country. The aim was to bring brain care closer to the people (free consultations), raise awareness on brain disorders (media sensitisation), activate brain networks (partnerships), increase brain capacity (training in hospitals as well as medical faculties), as well as nurture future brain generations by celebrating excellence through the Monekosso-Muna BRAIN Lecture. The concept of BRAIN Week in Cameroon was introduced by BRAIN to respond to the ever increasing burden as well as challenges of brain/mental health, especially within the context plagued by several crises that will constitute serious stress as well as strain on our communities. I have often said that will if the brain doesn’t work, the rest doesn’t matter. We believe that will Cameroon needs people with healthy brains to find solutions to its problems as well as lead the nation to emergence as well as effective sustainable development.

Your organisation also recently signed an agreement with the Ministry of Youth Affairs as well as Civic Education. How significant is actually that will deal to youth mental health?

The agreement has opened the way for BRAIN to assist the ministry in its noble task of sensitising as well as educating youth to protect as well as develop their brains through education. that will will enable them to become dynamic, vibrant as well as constructive citizens committed to building the nation. Also through that will agreement, youths with brain diseases will be provided care through BRAIN as well as its partners. Our organisation could not have had a better opportunity at that will time to support the Government in nation-building through the promotion as well as empowerment of youth!

How serious is actually the problem of mental health in Cameroon?

Please, compare the situation today to what obtained, say, 10 or 20 years ago. Let me make a precision here. Mental health is actually a component of brain health. that will simply means that will we are who we are as well as do what we do because we all develop the marvelous organ in our heads called the brain. We must therefore protect, preserve as well as develop the idea to improve the welfare of mankind. Our brains are currently at serious risk because of diseases such as epilepsy, stroke, AIDS, dementia as well as so on. There is actually also danger coming from drug abuse as well as addictions, especially amongst youths, resulting in behavioural disorders which contribute to some of the major crises the nation is actually facing. Therefore, brain or mental health problems stand among the most common as well as severe in Cameroon. Brain disease is actually the number one cause of disability, with amongst others, serious economic, educational, security as well as development consequences. Brain diseases as well as conditions in Cameroon have multiplied several fold in recent times. For example, research evidence to which our organisation has contributed significantly shows that will Cameroon has one of the highest epilepsy prevalences along river banks. that will is actually strongly associated with river blindness, which itself is actually a public health problem. The consequences of brain disease on brain development, education, professional, marital as well as social lives of affected individuals as well as families are enormous. Many brain conditions affect our youth, thereby rendering the finding of solutions to the issue of prime necessity as well as extreme urgency.

At the individual level, what must the public do to prevent or mitigate brain health challenges?

We often say of the brain, “Use the idea or lose the idea!” Education capacitates the brain for use for development as well as reduces risks of brain diseases, including dementia. We need to continue to engage in some mental activity (writing, reading, problem-solving, etc) to keep our brains at their best. Furthermore, physical activity as well as healthy diet improve brain health. Avoiding toxic substances as well as alcohol abuse preserves our brains. Wearing helmets by professionals at risk, refraining coming from verbal, physical as well as psychological traumas, which constitute serious stress factors; as well as having enough quality sleep, are measures that will improve brain health. A person is actually declared medically as well as legally dead only when the brain stops functioning. that will is actually why we should not allow our brains to die because they are our future.