Primitiveness & Ignorance

Many Ghanaians do not know that a Mental Health Authority has been established. Maybe the inception of the Authority should have been heralded by pomp and pageantry as part of an important publicity stunt.

The few of us who now know that such an important Authority exists doff our hats to whoever was instrumental in its establishment.

Our excitement over the creation of a hitherto non-existent yet critical Authority is because of the extent to which mental health has both been neglected and mystified.

People who suffer such conditions, regardless of the extent and form, are generally ostracised and even labelled witches and wizards and subjected to all manner of inhuman treatments.

Many still do not understand that mental health is like any other ailment, requiring the attention of relevant professionals.

Last week one in a series of instances in which persons suffering psychotic conditions have been subjected to inappropriate ordeal by persons ignorant about mental health, was enacted in Ashaley Botwe, a suburb of Accra.

It is sad that until the police intervened, the woman, already declared a witch, had been humiliated and on the verge of being lynched.

Earlier, a man was saved by the police in Madina after some people claimed he was flying over the place when he dropped down from the sky.

Sometimes we are tempted to respond to such wild claims by describing those accusing the mental patients witches as hallucinating and rather requiring psychiatric attention.

In Kasoa in the Central Region a few years ago, a man found in a gutter was said to have dropped from the sky when he and a group of wizards were flying to another part of the country.

He was maltreated in a manner which showed how far some of us are from civilisation: why should people in Accra believe such crap?

As we compose this editorial, the Ashaley Botwe mental patient, who it turned out is a resident of Canada, is receiving psychiatric attention. It just shows how primitive some of us are.

It is instructive that such patients give the kind of answers their aggressors want to hear so they can unleash their primitiveness upon them. When they are confronted with questions about their origins the victims mention names of locations which are mostly not true.

The Ashaley Botwe mental patient was said to have told her aggressors that she was flying from Suame, Kumasi, in the Ashanti Region – a narration which was not true. At that point, it did not occur to them that the woman was a mental patient and was already receiving treatment.

The newly established Mental Health Authority has a lot of work to do, even in the face of a lean purse and glaring shortage of the necessary inputs to make a difference.

One of the tasks on the bosom of the Authority is the education of Ghanaians about what constitutes mental health and the fact that it can affect anybody just like the other ailments common among us.

This way, the incidence of people descending upon mental patients and attempting to lynch them would be minimised and the likes of the Ashaley Botwe mental patient would not be left naked and subjected to humiliating treatment.