By Ade Campbell
SIERRA LEONE, Freetown: Millions of people across the world are faced with different mental health problems and Sierra Leone is no exception. Some are lucky, loved ones take them early for treatment, while those that are unfortunate are left to roam freely around and this has been years of concern to both the Government and the public.
However, the Psychiatrist Specialist and Home Care Manager at the National Psychiatric Teaching Hospital, Dr. Abdul Jalloh is encouraging members of the public to take their loved ones in with mental health problems in time for early treatment which saved the life of Abibatu Musa (not her real name) and many others presently at the Country’s only psychiatric facility.
Awoko caught up with Abibatu and she explained her story how family pressure and torment caused her depression, but early detection and treatment has made her whole once more.
Q- Hello and welcome to Awoko weekend, can you please explain what brought you to this facility?
A-I am Abibatu Musa an adult and a Sierra Leonean from the Southern Region. I am a Social Worker by profession and a single mother of two children. This November I celebrated my 55 years and I pray to see more in good health and strength. My being here is a result of some members of my family who think I have a mental problem, because I decided to resign my well paid job to go into Christian Ministries.
Q-So what happened when you found yourself at the Psychiatric hospital?
A-It all started some years back, after I broke the news that I resigned my job and will want to be active in God’s work. Some of my family members including my elder daughter thought I was joking, not until they realized that my finances were dwindling and what I did for immediate and extended family, I could no longer do, then the battle began.
I was frustrated and suppressed by family members in Freetown and up country and at a point I lost focus on what I was determined to do, – God’s work. I was pushed to the wall because I came home to the family house I was living, that I had rehabilitated with my hard earned money, and found out that the apartment had been broken into and most of my personal belongings and properties were carted away by unknown persons, and the compound is a family premise, with no outsider as resident.
Q-Nobody within the family compound claimed responsibility for the act, and what did you do?
A-This is what I cannot understand, that my own family could be so naïve and selfish towards me. After the incident I felt so distressed and down casted because when I reported the matter to the police, family members ganged up against me and told the police I’m a mad woman, and I’m not saying the truth about the burglary. So slowly I started to get depressed and even lost focus on God’s work. I asked myself, Is it a crime to work in the Master’s Vineyard?
I got so angry within but through his grace I carried on until one night when a mysterious fire broke out in my apartment, and all hell let loose in the compound and fingers from my own blood family pointed at me, blaming me to be responsible for the outbreak. I will always remember that night in 2018, and that was when family members bounded me with ropes and called the police on me that I am mad.
Q-Did you set the house ablaze and were you conscious of all that was going on around you, and what did you say or do?
A-Indeed, I was conscious because I was in the house sleeping, but nature woke me up and because the apartment has no inside toilet facility I had to come outside, and inside the toilet I heard people shouting and screaming fire, when I came to the scene, and to my surprise the house was in flames. I suspected foul play but did not say a word, even when I was being bounded up I remained calm and was bundled into a vehicle by police and some family members, and brought to this facility.
Q-The police and even some family members might want to suspect you of setting fire to the house before answering to the call of nature.
A-The fingers pointed at me, but how can I set fire to where I call home, everyone in my compound abandoned me so the only place I spend my time apart from God’s house was inside that house.
Q-Since you arrived at this facility, were you treated the same way as your family or differently?
A-I admit I was feeling very depressed, but to say the truth, the care givers have been exceptional and God’s touch have really helped me out of my depression. Since early 2018 to now I have made new friends and I have somewhere to call home.
Q-After months of treatment and counselling, how do you feel?
A-Can’t express the wonderful feeling I am experiencing. I feel total wellness and can you believe in June, I was asked by the hospital management to deliver the vote of thanks, when President Bio officially commissioned the rehabilitated hospital. I have never felt so humbled and elated, and guess what, patients are no longer chained to their beds, thanks to Partners in Health Organization.
Q-So Madam Abibatu what do you do in your spare time here?
A-(Smiling), I exercise a lot so I look younger than my age, and I’m the Head for Jesus Ministries at the hospital. I do a lot of evangelism and I also assist with counselling around the facility, giving hope to the hopeless.
Q-You have been certified by the hospital as fit to go home, are you happy to go?
A-I give God all the glory for healing miracle in my life. Yes, I would have loved to go out and meet my family, but unfortunately for what they did to me, they are now ashamed to welcome me back, including my daughters. I am happy here because the management has allowed me to stay until something is sought out for me to start a new life on my own, serving my maker.
Q-What are some of the things you disliked about the facility, when you arrived?
A-I hated to take my medications because I know nothing was wrong with me mentally, but the doctor and caregivers counselled me to see reason as it was for my own good. I never knew depression is a form of mental health problem so I challenged them when it was time for administration of medication. I also do not like to see other patients not adhering to rules and regulations of the facility and I feel pain for those who are brought in severely ill and have lost consciousness of themselves. I usually pray for them. I also want to call on government to speed up with the Lunacy Act of 1902 as it is out dated and does not make provision to adequately cater for and protect people with mental health problems.
Madam Abibatu Musa, thank you for sharing your experience with Awoko on Weekend
According to Dr. Abdul Jalloh, Abibatu Musa is now fit to reintegrate into society. Abibatu’s housing problem is keeping her at the hospital, “Hopefully together with Partners in Health, she and others who are certified fit and well, will be catered for to start a new life”. AC/25/12/2021