Category Archives: GMHPN

The serious foursome Ss which stall mental health and wellbeing in Cameroon


I have written extensively on mental health, mental wellbeing and mental illness on my own website, blog and the Gbm Foundation for epilepsy and mental wellbeing of which I am the Country Director; and on numerous national and international media. But, these serious foursome Ss pop up again and again – seems like there will be no meaningful progress until they are squarely addressed.

S1: SPIRITUAL ATTACK

When you are in a very religious country or community, you should realize that religion and spirituality or whichever comes first to the people, plays a very big role in their lives. Indeed, long before ‘white man’ medicine came, people were cured or healed through incantations and other process including drinking various portions and following special protocols. A spiritual attack is when there is a belief that the origin of the attack is mysterious especial when no other logical explanation exists. Truth be told, no logical explanation exists to explain a mental health challenge or disorder, and the first stop when there is a crisis here, is mostly to a Man or Woman of God. Hold up, they are actually competing or on the same line of importance as the traditional doctors when we consider the second S.

S2: SUPERSTITION

Even where it can be ascertained it is a spiritual attack, the source must be rooted out right? Who else but a jealous person or witch/wizard can cause someone to have a mental health problem or illness? The predominant belief in our communities had always been that any sudden illness or death is superstitious and very suspicious. Mental health challenges or illnesses are no exception. Indeed, for these categories of ‘wahala’ (local slang for trouble), it is the norm and can only be cast out or cleansed by the traditional doctor aka Ngambe man (witch doctor) for us. I mean, if neither the spiritual healer nor the herbal healer cannot help, why not just chain up the person and let them waste away and die instead of bringing more embarrassment to all concerned? The next S comes in here.

S3: STIGMA

Stigma is both from without and within. The society and even families stigmatize the patient and their family; and the patient loses all their self-esteem and stigmatize themselves by withdrawing further and further into their own ‘world’. Families get fed up trying to help while navigating all that stigma, and the patient’s ‘supposedly non-compliant attitude’ only makes matters worst. Tie them and lock them up or outside in a barn let them become whatever they want. The patients equally fed up with the treatment and stigma, lookout for ways to live their ‘freedom’ and to ‘communicate their frustration’ in anyway that appeals to their already very distorted cognition. Society notices and sighs in slushed sentences and all stakeholders are at a lost on what to and how to proceed. And then the next S.

S4: SHAME

Note I write the last two Ss in all caps. My own way of shaming them actually. Shame can make even families with the means to take their patients to the hospital and seek better and alternative treatment protocols not to do so. Shame is the outcome of all the stigma explicit or implied, and we all know how people could sometimes fight to protect their ‘reputation’. We have surely heard of ‘honour killings’ in some countries where families have taken the lives of one of theirs because of the shame this individual was bringing to their name. Some patients out of shame, could also contemplate or commit suicide because the life they now lead is definitely the skeleton what was before they fell ill and they can’t stand the pain, stigma and all any more.

It is therefore my humble submission that we in Cameroon have to address these foursome Ss if we are to really make any progress with any mental health campaign. Our realities are still far different from those of the west, I saw this first hand when I did a two months internship at the lone public psychiatric ward in the city of Douala. Many patients brought in are already so challenged and ill, it’ll take much more than a brief hospitalization to help them. Some even in the hospital don’t open up to get any little help available, they are ashamed or feel stigmatized even by some medical personnel – sad to admit.

Today as we celebrate World Mental Health Day under the impressive theme Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World, I salute the efforts made to raise awareness to the different issues involved surrounding mental health, but I add that we should step up our listening. Sometimes people hurt so bad but there is just no one to listen to you even when you want to trust enough to tell.

Marie Abanga is a phenomenal woman by every account who defines herself simply as a person of passion and a tale of talents. She runs a private psychotherapy practice in the city of Douala – Cameroon and be contacted through her website at https://marieabanga.com.

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My participation at the 2nd national days for Mental Health in Cameroon


 

Hello world, well I knew I was going to have a hectic week, but I couldn’t tell how hectic it was going to really end up being. Fortunately I had a great weekend with my hood even if that equally left my feet crying fowl hahaha.

I left for Yaounde the city where the event was to take place on Monday by noon, and the trip this time around lasted 6 not 8 hours…thank you Lord. The next day Tuesday, the event started off only an hour late, a good sign if you ask me. Below was my Facebook summary about the morning session:

Day 1: Morning session 2nd National days for Mental Health under the theme “State of the art and perspectives in the wake of skills transfer in mental health”. (Translated by me so bear with me – our country may be bilingual in theory but not always in practice sadly so). Even though the event started an hour late, they got to cover all which had been marked for the morning session. There were speeches (4 to be precise) by the Director for health at the Ministry of Public Health, by the UNFPA Representative, by the WHO Representative, and lastly by the Minister of Public Health himself.

 

Rhetoric aside, I was very impressed with the testimony of two persons living with a mental illness, the Man lives with Schizophrenia and the lady, an IDP whose husband was kidnapped since 8 months today, lives with C-PTSD. A humourist also used his skills to drill us on basic notions of mental health, stressing the difference with mental illness and encouraging us all not to be ashamed of talking about mental health. There was also a 7 mins clip of some real life scenarios expect in the various conflict regions of the country, and some different causes of mental health challenges were looked at which led to more destructive behaviour like illicit drugs consumption leading to more distress and nervous breakdown.

The afternoon program promises to be more thematic with statistics on the current state of the art from the perspective of different stakeholders.

 

Day 2 was sort of my day and here is my recap as shared of Facebook once more lol:

Day 2: Morning session 2 national days of Mental Health Cameroon. Wow, what a morning. So much learned and I was called up to do a presentation of the organizations I represented, ie Gbm Foundation and GMHPN. So I had no camera man and below is the brief clip (sadly it seems clip failed to upload here and am damn tired to try via u-tube and etc) a friend of mine did as I was leaving the podium. You can all imagine what I share on, some personal experiences and the work of both the Gbm foundation and the GMHPN whom I represent in Cameroon. Charlene Sunkel I think we will get there, I made some great contacts. Thank you for the appointment and opportunity. Hopefully see you soon. Didier De Masso who did the facilitation, also did a great presentation in his capacity as HIFA representative in Cameroon, on the importance of making mental health information easily accessible to all. His recommendations on the need for more research grants for mental health, the creation of a national database of organisations and stakeholders in the sector and more, were highly appreciated. Care and Plan International also made presentations on their work on the field especially in the different conflict zones of the country. A lot is left to be done but the efforts so far are honestly commendable.

All in all, I had a great time both at the event and in the city of Yaounde itself. I made some very valuable contacts and am so proud of myself for the headway. I did stand my grounds to get an official invitation or nothing, and although I got that sort of last minute like on Friday, I went in somewhat hasty conditions and survived hahaha

 

Happy weekend everyone

Why am doing this mini fundraiser to attend a Mental Health Summit in London here…


Hi everyone, I am a little ‘laggy’ doing this mini fundraiser raiser here to attend a VIP summit in London next month.

I was recommended by the coordinator of the Global Mental Health Peer Network (am a recently appointed executive representing Cameroon), to the organizers of the summit sometimes last month and I forgot about it. Three weeks ago, I received a formal invitation, filled the form and boom in 4 days I got an approval as a delegate.

Well, I couldn’t fund that and didn’t know I could go to the delegates’ area of the website and download a form to fill. Last Monday, at 11.30 am, I pay attention to an email from the organizers saying the last day to apply for funding was that same 11th at 12pm. I had probably been overlooking updates and co from them thinking it wasn’t a lead worth following (why I didn’t just as usual apply for funding I don’t know). Here I zoomed quick to delegate area using the PW I had been provided but never even bothered changing, downloaded the form filled same and sent it back at exactly 11:50am.

Can you believe my joy when last Friday I received a funding approval for transportation and accommodation for the two nights of the summit?

Issue now is visa fees which stand at 200usd with my appointment set for Wednesday like in 12 hours I hav to pay that amount.

Two reasons am doing this mini fundraiser therefore:

1) I need to raise the fees before 12 noon tomorrow or lose the appointment slot (the dates are already too close and I don’t wish to lose that slot);

2) I would love to see the tribe support me attend this very important summit. I will consider it a big blessing to have even 1£ or 1euro or 1usd from any of my gentle readers or followers for this.

So, if you are moved to donate, I will appreciate you send any amount you have to my PayPal. This is so abrupt I know, I really didn’t want to throw it out here until I realized I really needed help.

Thank you very much in advance to all who will donate, be sure I’ll acknowledge each of you personally.

God bless us all

What, and why, is self care the best care?


Hello World, both on a personal scale and as a psychotherapist, self care is a very important precept to me. I therefore decided to wrap up this week with a post on self care, which I tell my clients is the best care. Many times they ask me in return, what really is self care and why is it the best care? We all know how taking care even of our basic necessities when we are mentally challenged can be difficult right? But here is the great thing, self care is not only about doing it alone, but also about knowing when to ask for help because right then that is the best way you can show yourself you care for you!!!

So, while on the web searching, I came across some sites having an article or the other on self care. The LawofAttraction.com defined self-care as copied below and indented, and I find that definition apt. I wouldn’t be adding to it and bore you out, thus here we go:

Self-care is a broad term that encompasses just about anything you to do be good to yourself. In a nutshell, it’s about being as kind to yourself as you would be to others. It’s partly about knowing when your resources are running low, and stepping back to replenish them rather than letting them all drain away.

Meanwhile, it also involves integrating self-compassion into your life in a way that helps to prevent even the possibility of a burnout.

However, it’s important to note that not everything that feels good is self-care. We can all be tempted to use unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, over-eating, and risk-taking. These self-destructive activities help us to regulate challenging emotions, but the relief is temporary. The difference between unhealthy coping mechanisms and self-care activities is that the latter is uncontroversially good for you. When practiced correctly, self-care has long-term benefit for the mind, the body, or both.

That addressed, why do I uphold self care to be the best care?

No one knows you better than you. No one can take care of you better than you. No one can make you valued, happy, sad, and all other feeling and emotions in between better than you. This is so so true for me, I mean I know myself inside out and I am true to myself.

I am therefore in charge of my own care – and so should/can you!!!

I have gradually developed several self care habits which truly make me happy and serene. When I am overwhelmed or need help, I keep my therapist hat aside, and reach out to my support circle. It is very important to have one, and to nurture your circle with your own presence, that way, when you reach out you will be helped and not shunned. We each have something magical to share, that smile or email or drawing, or a few poetic lines which makes someone’s day.

When we are in charge of our own self care, we can tell what works and what doesn’t, we can let go and laugh or cry without tearing ourselves down, we remain alive to ourselves and not zombie out under the influence of drugs – be they prescribed or illicit. The deal for me is identifying earlier than later what works for you, who can help you best when you are not so in tune with your self care plan ( yup good to have a self care plan), and what is the worst case scenario…

More to follow in a part two hahaha

Have a great weekend us all

Who just got appointed to the GMHPN Executive representing Cameroon?


 

GMHPN EXEC Committees
Is my face good somewhere there to the left directly under the founder’s? That’s an honour for me lol

And to think I almost gave up on the application procedure. Ah Determination, Discipline and Dedication pay big time. I am up to the task because I also have these 3 Ps to fly with.

I know this is yet another springboard for me and all the work I do for mental health awareness and my own self care; I equally know as a psychotherapist it is important to be in your ‘client’s shoes’ too as much as you can – and so I am super excited about this appointment and really know without a doubt this year is indeed my year of Grace.

Thank you all who have been here and there with me in my mental health journey, thank you all who have trusted me to help them help themselves in their own mental health journey. My appointment to the highly awaited GMHPN, is for Cameroon and I can’t hesitate to mention the HIFA Representative for Cameroon, my friend Didier Demassosso who passed on the call for applicants to me in the first place.

And while I brace myself emotionally to receive all the likes and congratulatory messages, may I encourage you to take a look at the GMHPN’s Newsletter for June right here, or for July right here; like our facebook page, and join our ever growing global community of mental health peers. If you would like to also join the Mental Health 237 facebook page I created, contact me here or if on facebook, inbox me…thank you very much.

Have a great week everybody and be inspired

To God be the Glory