In my country Cameroon, mental health and mental illness are still so much taboo.
As a passionate mental health advocate,a peer and now the Country Representative of the Global Mental Health Peer Network, I ceaselessly raise awareness as often as I can using any tools at my disposal.
I am honoured Ekema 39, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 25 years ago, agreed to review my brother’s journey (diagnosed with bipolar disorder and died in 2014 after 18 years of turmoil). The similarities he points out in his own journey is striking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That was a poem I wrote SIWO last Sunday to usher in the month of October. In 5 days we celebrate world mental health day and statistics remain bleak in spite of all the awareness and resources available.
I am most grateful for the listening gift received in full some months ago.
If you want to get in touch or get more details about my related service, please visit my website to this effect
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…
There’s no way around it: substance abuse is a terrible thing. Addiction sneaks into people’s lives and steals all they hold dear. Relationships are destroyed, careers are lost, and homes are trashed. Still, once someone makes the decision to start on the road the recovery, it’s important to keep a positive outlook despite all the damage that has been done. Here are a few tips on how to keep your head up when you feel like everything around you is falling down.
Eat, Sleep and Exercise
This tip is first on the list, because it’s so simple but so powerful. If you are eating badly and not getting enough sleep or physical exercise, you will feel worse, you will have less motivation (and more depression), and you will have much less of a chance of reaching your goals. To maximize your potential, you must eat in a healthy manner, get plenty of sleep so you feel well-rested, and develop a steady exercise routine so your body begins to get back in shape. When you feel better, you’ll have a better outlook and better behavior.
An Attitude of Gratitude
Attitude is a powerful tool that we often forget we have. You can’t always control the circumstances around you, but you can control how you respond to them. Staying positive in the midst of recovery will help you avoid relapse, allow you to find your happiness in places other than the substances you abused, and make it easier for others to help you. You can start on your road to positivity by making a list of things you’re grateful for. Focusing on gratitude for even simple things will get your mind in the right place and help you realize how many of your needs are actually met even when life is hard. As long as you’re breathing, you can show gratitude.
Dealing with Guilt and Shame
Guilt and shame are some of the hardest feelings you will have to face during recovery. Guilt and shame arise from your failure to live up to your values and moral standards. They will often become more pronounced as you move through recovery and clarity returns, helping you realize the reality of the mistakes you have made and the damage you have caused. You will have to face these feelings head on. Talk about them, confess them and seek forgiveness, both from yourself and those you have hurt.
As Swift River explains, “Getting to the root of your addiction will be a confusing and emotional experience, but understanding your substance abuse completely is an important step in conquering it. Additionally, marriage and/or family counseling can help facilitate healthy conversations with your loved ones and pave the way for stronger relationships.” Rebuilding these relationships is key to your positive attitude, and once you have begun this productive course of action, your guilt and shame will begin to fade as well.
Another way to stay positive is to get the focus off yourself by giving back to those in need in your community. Volunteering will help you connect with others, give you increased self-confidence and self-worth, and connect you with a bigger purpose. Whether you serve meals at a homeless shelter, help build a Habitat for Humanity house, or volunteer at an animal shelter, giving your time and attention to other causes is a noble endeavor with positive benefits. It will also help others begin to learn to trust you again.
Attitude can play a larger role than we know in substance abuse recovery. Staying positive by following the advice above is a great first step to full recovery from the effects of addiction. Stay grateful, keep your mind off your own circumstances, and focus on larger purposes than your own, and you’ll be well on your way.
Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.
It was barely 1 month ago that I went by night trip to MC their village to visit my dad… The real relationship being that dad an orphan had been adopted by this Angel when he was just 11/12 in a city he knew no one in and was yet to learn French. It had been 2 decades I hadn’t been there because Grand pere (MC’s dad) died in 2009 when I just had Gaby… In short, all these make for at least two more posts…
For now, see you hopefully next month for a couple of days lol
It’s been one half of a year indeed – hmm, let me just bury My MC and see how it goes with the mini break and co
Have a great weekend everyone and till then – one love – do take care of yourselves and take a break when you have to, cause life can be tough and roller coaster…
Hi all, first solo travel in 2018. I cherish traveling alone because I can read and sleep and do just as I want without feeling obliged to talk with anyone. I know aome good conversation could be struck up with a seat mate and even contact made, but on this particular trip not me oh lol!
Taveling used to be fun when I was a kid. I loved going around with my dad and asking all the questions in the world inspite being told to just shut up like my siblings and leave him to drive in peace. He still remembers to this date lol!
However, when we moved to Yaounde from Douala when I was in Grade 4, everything changed. That was a major traveling for me because it was not a to and fro. I was leaving all my bearings behind, and not happy dad hadn’t even told me of this move when he got the news from his job. I was really something to even think of that right? It is ‘not expected of good African children’ period!
Although my anxiety at traveling has gotten better and I no longer pack months or weeks in advance (up to 2015 that was me), I still love to be ready mentally and physically at least 3 days in advanve. Any on the spur trips even if fun, or not consented to, throw my psychologically off balance a while. I can’t even imagine what I’ll do if I in any last minute packing for example, left behing an item or piece of luggage lol!
Well, for now, am boarded for Yaounde again for an overnight trip. Am hoping for the best of moments and know the boys will try their best. I am reading Peace Pilgrim and well wrapped up for the AC in this dang so called VIP bus lol!
And you gentle readers and followers, what is your preferred traveling mantra? Plan and Prepare; or Up and Go?
I love that picture very much because it represents so much to me. I am cooking no doubt, but I am cooking in a some what difficult condition. Yet, am doing it with love. That is the whole line of my story at least with cooking.
From my earliest recollection of cooking for my dolly, (mud puddings and iced tea with mint leaves plugged straight from the trees lol) I loved the whole process. I got lost in the art of it all and I had fun taking myself so seriously and vital – dolly was going to stay hungry unless I cooked for her. The mockery and shun offs I got from home at the time when I offered to cook for all, only motivated me to want to cook better lol.
I also knew cooking food was more nutritional than buying food because both parents told us so. Above all, my late mami mami loved cooking, and cooking so deli, I just fell in love with cooking.
I cooked for us siblings when mum left, and for near two years when living in a single bedroom with my late brother in our father’s villa, I smuggled a kerosene cooking stove, and some food every now and then, to cook for us in that room turned home for us. You can all imagine this was traumatic but I was grateful to be able to cook for my brother who was ere so fragile and could not stand not eating like I could, much to the annoyance of step mother.
When I got married, I will cook and make little salads and deserts as often as I could. I did it with love, but oh how it started piercing my soul when hubby stopped eating what I cooked for all sorts of reasons.
Today, I am in a very good place mentally and all, and I still cook with all that love. Indeed in Belgium, my little private restaurant was baptized merry tables. Ah I wish I could a restaurant out here for real as a retirement venture maybe? Hmm, I got them talents and ideas in abundance no joke..
But now, what about eating? Hmm, I was a skinny child growing up, play in lieu of food was an ideal bargain I tried all the time. But then, I used to be forced to finish my plate so I managed to share it with the table, ground my hair, dress you name it lol
When living with my brother in that our room/cell if you may, eating was not my priority. Not knowing when next provisions would come or the chance to sneak out, jump over the fence with broken bottles and go smuggle them in, meant that I had to hoard or eat carefully. You can imagine eating lost all significance to me. Maybe only later resurfaced as a coping mechanism?
Exactly, that’s what eating became to me for half of my marital life. I started eating in abundance, topping all the yummy I cooked with ice creams and other delis from the bakery etc
When I hit 115kgs, I knew enough was enough. Breathing indeed became a problem and I had to do something.
I got so angry with myself and the world, I stopped eating period. I hid behing dry fasting from 6-6, to reduce my eating to an apple and a gladd of hot cocoa at night. Needless to say anorexia surfaced and near thrived for 18months until mum threatened then pleaded…
Today, at 77kgs, and with the real and free and lovely me now present, I eat for nourishment and out of love too. Love for me, my body, my children, my family, my guardian angel. I also keep cooking for all with love, conscious too of the effects on my physical wellbeing especially with my RA diagnosis and sometimes very painful reality…when I can’t even lift my hand.
In conclusion, I am especially grateful for all those STILL who eat what I cook with love like my boys, and to all those who understand my pull to their kitchens or loo when I visit them hahaha. Maybe I’ll also take up professional cooking on retirement?
Dear all, while wishing you a happy weekend, may I encourage you to think about why you cook or eat…and to be grateful to be able to do either or both…
mum, author, mental health advocate, therapist, inspires & motivates with personal experiences