Watch my “Interview with Albert Ekema diagnosed with Schizophrenia 25 years ago”


He lives with me and it’s been 5 months of so much loving, learning and living.

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Posted in Cameroon, GMHPN, Mental Health Advocacy

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.

Posted in Addictions and Recovery, Coaching and Therapy, Guest Posts, Mental Health Advocacy

Embracing Alternative Therapies and Their Role in Addiction Recovery by Kimberly Hayes


Addiction by Tiffany
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Engaging in addiction recovery may be the most important challenge you ever undertake. It’s vital to use the best tools available to you. Alternative methods can help you achieve success.

Holistic therapy. There is an increasing awareness of holistic therapies, with some studies showing sixty-five to eighty percent of the population participating in holistic naturopathic medicine as a primary form of health care. Demand is so great, half of all medical schools offer courses in holistic methods. Holistic therapy is defined as treating the mind, body and soul of a person, and typically uses both traditional and alternative methods to address and prevent health conditions. Practitioners aim to treat not only symptoms but causes of issues, they encourage communication with patients, integrate whole-body approaches in their programs, and support not only physical concerns but also mental and spiritual ones throughout treatment.

Some of the alternative methods used in holistic-oriented addiction recovery are as follows:

  • Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a time-tested therapy using needles to reduce cravings, aching muscles, detoxification symptoms and withdrawal symptoms. According to HealthLine acupuncture works to help to restore the body’s balance.

  • Biochemical restoration. This treatment examines what imbalances in the body are producing cravings and restores balance through nutrition.

  • Biofeedback. As The Treehouse explains, with biofeedback, machines monitor brain waves to evaluate what is occurring during an addict’s cravings. By understanding the addict’s thought patterns treatment can be modified to address issues.

  • Exercise. Some experts note exercise helps improve mood, enhance brain function, and improves strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health. Addicts can enjoy achieving a natural, healthy “high” through the chemicals released in the body by exercise.

  • Herbs. Symptoms of detoxification can be treated with herbs like valerian, kaya, and ginseng. Some herbs reduce insomnia and anxiety as well.

  • Hypnosis. By instructing the subconscious mind toward different thought patterns, an addict’s self-esteem can improve and the desire for drugs be eliminated.

  • NAD. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is a derivative of vitamin B3 – also known as niacin. It’s a basic element in all living cells and plays a key role in metabolism. NAD is thought to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms during recovery.

  • Prayer and meditation. These two therapies are similar, requiring the addict to focus intently and embrace a higher level of understanding.

  • Yoga. Yoga encourages engaging mind, body and spirit to improve patience and relaxation. Addicts learn to look inward to understand their choices and navigate recovery.

Holistic treatments should be used in conjunction with rehabilitation and lifestyle changes. You should embrace a healthy diet and fitness program, and understand emotional wellness is a key component in recovery. Psychotherapy, mental health and behavioral therapies can help improve emotional health.

Exercises such as journaling benefit many addicts. Journaling provides the opportunity to review patterns and look inward for what drives your personal choices. It also encourages you to stay balanced and maintain a healthier focus on reality and on the present, reducing anxiety and stress.

What alternative methods aren’t. As explained by Psychology Today, alternative methods are not meant to be stand alone treatments. It’s important to participate in an organized recovery program guided by proven treatment practices. Ensure your care provider is using evidence-based therapies and treating your whole person with other proven methods. As some experts explain, everyone is different and your program should be tailored to your needs. Any treatments should be discussed with your therapist and used in conjunction with your entire recovery plan. Engaging in a treatment on your own, especially if it neglects another vital component, can be dangerous. Ensure you participate in a healthy, balanced recovery plan with the guidance of your therapist.

Alternative therapies can help. Addiction recovery is a difficult road, and with alternative therapies you can better navigate the obstacles. Discuss your options with your health professional. With a sound, balanced approach your recovery can be a success!

About the Author

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.

P.S: I am sincerely very honoured that Kimberly sent me a request to do a guest article on a topic I was embracing after coming in touch with the terrifying reality on the ground. When I did my internship at the lone psychiatric ward in my city of Douala – Cameroun, about 2/3 of the teenagers admitted were for addiction and dis-intoxication. I definitely can’t wait for her book’s release and hope she writes another article for my blog.

Posted in Marie's Garden, Mental Health Advocacy, Questions for an Author

Questions to an Author: Jill Sadowsky


David's Story
The cover says so much; the contents would move even the toughest of hearts

Hello World, very honoured to be wrapping up my interviews with authors who have written on mental health, with one I fondly call Granny. I was so delighted to talk with her on phone when I visited the US in 2015, and I was so happy when she liked the memoir I mailed her.

I have done a modest review of Jill’s heart breaking memoir on my blog, and it is my honour to interview her too. I don’t know how a mother handles her only son’s mental illness and survive his loss, I see my mum dwindling between striving and surviving but I am not in her mind. I hope Jill tells us a little how because she is one of those brave mothers!

1) The Profile

  1. Let’s Start with a brief introduction of yourself – your background – and a tiny bit from your life before mental illness struck:

I was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1939 and had an enchanted childhood. I studied teaching in Cape Town where I met and fell madly in love with Alec. We married, and immediately, our relationship was a loving and caring one consisting of give and take. After our baby, Doron was born, we left family and friends to fly off to Israel, the country of our dreams.

(Doron means ‘a gift’ in Hebrew.) The real name of her Son refered to in the memoir as David

  1. About your Memoir, why did you write it all those years later and with many names changed as you say?

Because I had never written before. But, I wrote notes every night on what had occurred each day from the time that Doron became ill which was during his arbitrary military service although in retrospect, there had been some signs previously. It took time but the book called ‘Weep for Them’ was born and published – the hardcover edition in 1998 and the paperback in the same year under my pen-name Sarah Ben-Dor. Neither were translated into English as I simply could not face rehashing that excruciating experience all over again.

Years later, after we’d lost our son, I had so much more to add, that I consulted with my husband and two daughters and asked for their permission to write an updated book in English, using my real name this time. They agreed. But I had to change the children’s names as well as my husband’s while writing because that made the whole process a little less painful for me as I was reliving the 16 years of Doron’s illness all over again.

2) The Soul Journey

  1. What is your take about mental health?

When our Doron was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, I had heard little about the subject and had never met a mentally ill person. Today, I am older, wiser, read whatever I can on new developments but, to date, am not convinced that there is something that could have helped our son who proved to be medication-resistant for so many years. I pray that somewhere, someone will be able to help all those who might be suffering the way Doron did. I never felt guilty about causing his illness as I had read that parents cannot cause schizophrenia.

  1. Did your feel guilty for your son’s deteriorating mental health? If yes what did you think or do, if no please explain some to us.

A few older psychiatrists pointed the finger of blame at me, but fortunately, I had read enough to know that I was innocent of that, at least. I had to do something so, I approached the Israel Mental Health Association ENOSH, and asked for permission to start a support group for parents of mentally ill children in our neighborhood, in English, as Hebrew is not our mother-tongue. They let us use their facilities and offered assistance but frankly, most of us, 22 in all, did not want to hear another professional at that stage. We met regularly twice a month and became like one large family. We could speak openly about anything to do with our ill child, confident that we could trust one another to be honest and not to speak to anyone else about what was said. I felt safe with them, so much so that they became like an extended family.

Parents cannot cause schizophrenia.

Mothers cannot cause schizophrenia. I want every single parent to know this:-

I bet you all part 2 tomorrow is equally soul searching, captivating and near gut wrenching – stay tuned

Posted in Book Reviews, Mental Health Advocacy

Book Review: Nothing like Normal; Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia by MGW


nothing-like-normal

What is NORMAL Anway?

This was the question I was ‘foolishly’ or maybe ‘highly unrealistically’ expecting to be answered in this all too human and yet piercing memoir.

I began reading this memoir by carefully studying the cover picture. I concluded the two chubby innocent girls on the front cover were  Martha Graham-Waldon (MGW) to the left and her dearest sister Kathy Graham (KG) to the right. While MGW looked at the camera, KG looked more closely into the gaze of the pet birds they carried. I noticed her shirt lifted up a little and showed her tummy and yet that wasn’t a problem for the photographer. Yet, some of you may agree with me that in some cultures, keeping birds for pets, or not being properly tucked up be you kids, is simply not NORMAL.

This memoir did more to me than just help me see how another family just like mine had, faced and dealt with their member’s mental illness. MGW may not know to what extent her memoir will impact some, but it has definitely completely shattered this paradigm of ‘NORMAL’ to me.

Was NORMAL to be the absence of a diagnosis mindful of some signs that something was seemingly going on with KG? Was it now their new NORMAL that something was indeed going on with KG but then they had to ’embrace’ that as is, or ‘pretend’ to still fit in with ‘conventional community’? What about it being NORMAL to sympathize with their mum who suffered a stroke, and yet shy away and stigmatize the Grahams for having a ‘mad member’ in their family?

I am not going on any further, I read this memoir with so much attention to everything because I couldn’t really believe another family, far away in the USA, could go through such shattering trauma and deal with stigma too! I really thought such things happened only in Africa, to families like mine, well in a setting where people died more from ignorance than from Negligence. I don’t know what to make of the ‘medication tradition or pattern out there’. What is NORMAL now? Go after the symptoms? Go after the illness as diagnosed? Go after the person and beat the Shit out of them?

And in the process of it, how do you a close sibling deal and heal with it all? I applaud MGW’s vivid narration of their various exotic and adventurous family vacations and existence before ‘Life happened’. This in my firm opinion as an aggrieved sibling like herself, states the strong case that the ‘lunatic’ the world now sees, had a ‘NORMAL’ life before their mental illness. I am glad and actually obliged to MGW for writing this memoir mindful of her pain. I rate the book a 5/5 because of the ‘intensity of the different subjects covered’. If I could recommend only 3 books for your year end, this will definitely be one of them. If you read carefully and in between, you’ll definitely re-evaluate that word NORMAL.

About the Author

mgw

Martha Graham-Waldon is a writer, spiritual entrepreneur and armchair activist who resides in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California with her family and a menagerie of pets. Her articles have been published locally, internationally and online. She is a winner of the 2015 Women’s Memoirs contest for a vignette based on her memoir Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia published by Black Opal Books. A member of the National Association of Memoir Writers, Martha also loves travel, the outdoors, Jazzercise and music.

Posted in Epilepsy Advocacy, Epilepsy Solidarity Walk in Cameroon, Mental Health Advocacy

STIGMA: The Script’s Synopsis P2


Hello world, pursuant to P1, here is P2:

…This is actually the setting into which Precious, Victor and Mercy are born to papa Thomas and mami Maria. Papa Thomas is a doubting Christian who has fallen out with the church because he insists on wanting to take a second wife since mami Maria has so far giving him only one child (He refuses to count the first two sick children as his). He has surnamed this third child Mercy and although she is only a girl meaning of not so much value to him, he desperately needs the ancestors or God to have mercy on her and spare her from the ‘badluck’ of her siblings.

The movie takes us through the traumatic ordeal of Precious and Victor, an ordeal which begins at home and ends up in school. They are at first taken by their parents to the traditional healer where they undergo near fatal and highly superstitious practices in a bid to rid them of the ‘curse’ source of the badluck, and when the procedure fails, they are dragged to the church with the hope that the reverend father will exorcise the demons in them.

The movie also brings out the guilt, burden and pain mothers feel and bear throughout such ordeals. In our case, mami Maria the mother of the sick children, bears it all bravely, leaving no stone unturned to get her husband to change his staunch traditional mentality and try out the ‘whiteman’s medication’ for once. It is she who when at her stall sees the NGO’s sensitization posters, pleads desperately with her husband that they go to the mission hospital and attend their presentation to learn some more. She equally plead with the catechist to come talk to her husband mindful of his disapproval of papa Thomas’s penchant for polygamy. The catechist’s visit leads to their being received by the reverend Priest. Reverend Fada as he is calls, seizes the opportunity to dismiss all what has been said at the village square and the traditional healer as false beliefs/practices; nothing more.

The lives of Precious and Victor henceforth take a dramatic turn for the better once reverend Fada refers them to the mission hospital. He knows that help can be found at a hospital because his cook’s child who suffers from what he refers to as epilepsy, gets a lot of help from the hospital in the nearby village.

Precious is almost denied a chance at the ‘whiteman medication’ when her father papa Thomas grumbles that he doesn’t have money to take two children there. He will rather take the boy and leave the girl to end up which ever way. Her dear mother steps in again by bringing out her savings. There is no way mami Maria can let her husband blatantly and viciously discriminate against her two sick children because one is a girl and to him of little value, while the boy a younger sibling deserves all the chances at getting better.

At the hospital, the children are registered for consultation by the neurologist who comes during the medical missions organized by the NGO. This NGO which has been working on the field for barely two years now, has indeed been able to secure the personal support of one of the few neurologists in the region. The Neurologist they are told brings a special machine to test the brains of the selected patients so as to know the exact type of the brain disorder they suffer from, and to be able to prescribe medication which can prevent the fainting or seizures as the attacks are called in the hospital. The God sent NGO has also brought some subsidized medication which thanks to mami Maria’s savings, the family can afford.

All is well that ends well, at last the children can now go to school. Another exciting news is that they don’t have to fear the reaction of their teachers and fellow students if they have a seizure in school because the NGO has also brought handbooks about epilepsy for the teachers. The teachers will be trained and they will in turn teach the students on what to do if a friend is having a seizure. The NGO is even sponsoring the Fon’s Football Cup tournament (among other projects), so that through the sponsorship they can sensitize the entire community on the brain disorder and advocate for a change in mentality towards persons living with epilepsy – thus fighting against stigma. Epilepsy they emphasize is not contagious and so people will stop running away and shaming them when they are having a seizure. Epilepsy they even add can be cured and prevented. All this is so new, it makes the news in the whole village.

In the end, Precious and Victor become heros in their village. Their story is reported in the local newspaper and the NGO tells them they will be taken to the city to share their story. Soon, many other parents stop hiding their sick children at home, they take them to the hospital and write down their names so that they will be selected and called back when the NGO organizes another medical mission….

Stay nearby for P 3 next week and thanks for all the support

Posted in Epilepsy Advocacy, Epilepsy Solidarity Walk in Cameroon

On your marks, ready, Walk… to bring epilepsy out of the Shadows


image

Wow, wow, wow – barely 3 days and my brother’s name is high over there on the banner for all to see. No he didn’t die in vain. No my pain was not in vain. And oh yes the gain is worth the lane no matter how winding.

Those banners worth thousands of messages

Sortons L'Epilepsie de L'ombre
Sortons L’Epilepsie de L’ombre

We at the Gbm-em Foundation have done all in our might and conscious of our plight, to get ready. We are going to walk with our sympathizers purple high.

On Friday already, there will be a one hour program over the CRTV radio, about this maiden and first of its kind solidarity walk for an illness still ‘near taboo’. A pity the world statistics didn’t spare out our ignorance, in fishing out our infamous record. No 1 in prevalence of epilepsy worldwide… Oh cry my beloved country Cameroon!

A big Thank You for your generous donations in cash, kind and goodwill

Isn’t that awesome? Yes we can, Yes we are doing it, Yes will keep walking and marching on in the fight to bring epilepsy out of the shadows.