“This is an area that has been highly neglected”. So said Dr. Chris Elumelu from National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDN) and his words could not be truer. In line with this year’s World Mental Health Day (WMHD) theme, “Psychological and Mental First Aid for All”, Gede Foundation, in collaboration with NPHCDN, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Chief in Mpape commemorated the day. Despite the heat, the event brought over a hundred people from the community and beyond.
NOA presented a sketch which depicted how society reacts to people with mental illnesses. They are labeled “mad”, “crazy”, among other demeaning words. The sketch, in its entirety can be viewed below. The sketch told the story of a man who appeared to have had a psychotic break and how people in the community reacted. First, they were terrified and refused to get close to him. After sometime, it was suggested that he visit a church or a mosque for healing. However, one of the actors mentioned - and correctly so, that delaying medical intervention is detrimental and could worsen the condition. She suggested that instead, the ill person could be taken to a hospital and he will need family as well as community support. These words rang true with the theme, “Psychological and Mental First Aid for All”.
After the sketch, questions were posed to the audience as to what they had learned and there were various answers given. A Psychologist, Mr. Sam Jinadu, was present to clarify some of the issues raised in the sketch. A considerable number of people simply asked what the signs of mental illnesses were. Mr. Jinadu informed them that there are quite a number of mental illnesses and symptoms differ depending on the type of illness. He gave examples of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. He urged the carers and community members to seek medical attention. When some people complained about funds for treatment, he informed them that government prices are highly subsidised and with Gede’s work - a BasicNeeds franchisee, livelihoods for some people is something to look forward to.
The event brought scores of people together and was indeed a platform for strong partnerships to be formed. Dr. Chris encouraged the Foundation to continue to work hard in the community and that their initiatives should be supported. The Media, who were highly involved during the course of the day also asked a number of questions concerning mental health were also encouraged to shine a brighter light on mental illnesses. It is through them that such initiatives will come out and it is up to them to present mental health as they would malaria. It may not be a physical disease, but it is a disease worthy of dignified mention.