I was about 17 years, when I realized I had the problem of depression. Thoughts of anxiety and panic attacks started crippng in. Was suffering from hallucinations. It got to a time I didn't know what was reality and what was my imagination. I felt like I had this black cloud hanging over my head, and it's a feeling that stays with you, and it seems to not get away from you completely.
It feels like it going to be that way forever. And in my case I felt like I wouldn't be able to reach my ambitions and goals. I felt like the world would be better off without me. My mental health problem was that the world becomes so scary and dangerous to me. The hardest part about having a mental health problem was that I was trying to get people around me to understand what I was going through. There are thousands of people going through what I went through but aren't aware, but I was lucky enough to know what my problem was from the get-go. and that was my first step towards recovery. Believe you me suicide did cross my mind.
Research has shown that suicide is the third cause of death amongst the youths of today. According to World Health Organization, it's estimated that of the 30 million people living in Ghana, 650,000 are suffering from severe mental disorder and a further 2,166,000 are suffering from moderate to mild mental disorder. One cannot talk about health without making reference to the definition proffered by the World Health Organization that describes health as the complete state of physical, psychological, and social well-being and not just the mere absence of infirmity or disease. This means that health must be viewed as psychological, emotional and social aspect of life. Thus, to be physically healthy but emotionally, psychologically and/or socially unstable means that an individual is " ill ".
The number of mental hospitals in this country are less than six. A lot of undergraduate enroll into various universities to become psychologists but I honestly don't know what they graduate to become. It seems they end up seeking for greener pastures, well at least that is what I think. Fortunately for us now, we have therapists that would advice mental patients to truly commit to treatments. They teach mental patients that things wouldn't be better unless they are completely vested, that their dual personality problems has a solutions, and its all just in their head.
That there is hope to feel like themselves again. You see, there is a separate person in the minds of all of us. He's the one who tells teenage girls to dress in mini skirts, because its the only way to get a man's attention. He's the one telling boys that they are not really men unless they are doing manly things; like working on cars, going to night clubs, or sleeping with anything so they can go back and tell their friends. He whispers sweet nothings into your ear as you stare into the mirror.
Things about how big your nose is, how flat your chest is, how dorky your glasses are and how no one really likes you. We all have that little voice in the back of our minds that feeds our insecurities, tells us we are weak and speaks contrary to everything we believe. The only problem was mine didn't whisper; mine screams at the top of his lungs. Try to cause an avalanche of negativity to come down and crush me. I needed not my mom or dad to cry out to, because they probably wouldn't understand because they didn't experience such. I needed a psychologist.
Listen, this to be honest wasn't a spiritual force, okay. This was a mental health problem and I needed to see a therapists. According to the Executive Director of the Mental Authority, the doctor to patient ratio within the mental health setting in Ghana is 1:1.7 million , tell me you don't agree that these figures are heart breaking. Fortunately for us, a lot of the Youth are getting acquainted with psychological studies.
Stigma is the biggest obstacle to recovery, treatment and societal acceptance for people living with mental illness is widespread and reaches into our educational institutions, workplace, homes, health care centres, in the media and even in the churches and mosques. People are also being sympathetic enough to strategically take steps to minimize or reduce stigmatization of people suffering from mental illness. Though series of training workshops, broad consultation with key national stakeholders and time to time critical analysis and reviews of the different drafts, with the new laws using World Health Organization materials and tools, Ghana has developed a comprehensive mental health care in communities in accordance with national human rights standards.
But I still think more should be done. It such a shame that Ghana has only three major public psychiatric hospitals. Looking at how far I have come as a youth, and how I am still standing, I assume am doing fine. I wish to encourage more youth and teens to stay strong. In Ghana, the organizations interested in mental health issues are just a few. Ghanaians need to see you dirty or even naked on the streets, before they believe you need help. And when are we going to stop measuring pain by what our eyes can see?? But even with that not much is been done.
I pray that one day the mentally ill will be seen as strong and not weak. That they can get help with dignity. Sometimes it hits me so hard that I have zero that understand me. But it's okay, because I am my own hero in this story. I just pray that someday our authorities will wake up and do much more than they are doing concerning mental health issues.
By Lartey Winifred