A very smart young man with a good job has a severe addiction to what he calls “certain drugs”. Even as I am talking to him, he tells me he does not have the willpower to desist from it. He tells me when he is tense, he believes that is the only way he can relax and be able to feel confident. He’s been doing this for over 5 years but he knows it is not good for him and he is ready to stop. He tells me he needs a ladder to help him out of the ditch he is in. His addiction, he says, has strained his relationships with his family, school as well as the community. They look at him as one of the bad guys in the community.
This was only one of the stories we heard yesterday at the Mental Health Camp (MHC) that Gede Foundation conducted at Chief Allahyayi Gambo’s palace in Mararaba. A considerable number of people came to the palace to get diagnosed by our psychiatrist, Dr. Omoyemi Osuhor. There were cases of psychosis, epilepsy as well as substance abuse. Most of the users (and carers for those that cannot take care of themselves) claimed that they do not have access to any medical intervention. They instead saw either traditional healers or faith healers. A few of the participants claimed to have become a little better after treatment but more often than not, they relapsed. The MHC was an eye opener not only to the number of sufferers in communities, but also to the types of treatment they have access to and how they respond to side effects. For instance, a lady aged 23 had a psychotic break in 2013. Her parents took her to the hospital where she received treatment and started getting better. However, she did not finish her medication as she claimed the medicine made her gain weight. Shortly after that, she fell sick again and sadly, was taken advantage of by some men. Up to now, she prefers sticking to traditional medication as this does not make her “fat”. Another lady narrated her son’s story. Her son was born 18 years ago and apart from minor complications at birth, everything else was OK. Her son progressed as well as any other child would; he crawled, teethed and walked on time. The parents became concerned when he was 3 and could not talk. They took him to the hospital and they found nothing wrong. Therefore, for over 12 years the young man has only seen traditional and faith healers. According to his mother, the young man cannot reason or speak well. He is usually on his own, mumbling to himself. The MHC was the first time he has seen a psychiatrist.
The Foundation is very grateful to the Chief of Mararaba for being kind enough to allow the Mental Health Camp to hold at his palace. The Chief was happy that Gede Foundation kept to its promise of actually doing something in his community. This is very promising as partnerships such as this one are an advantage in the community and they help in not only reaching more people but cementing faith NGO’s.
This is the first in the series of MHC’s the Foundation will hold. The next one will be on Saturday, 30th July 2016 in Mpape at the Primary Health Centre (PHC). The opportunity to work with and help those living with mental illnesses and epilepsy is a passionate one for Gede as it is our goal to not only ensure they have access to the right treatment, but that they get back on their feet and are able to positively contribute to their communities. Furthermore, this opportunity allows for others who can help to assist the Foundation to reach more people.