My Journey Into The Mental Health Profession

  • MY JOURNEY INTO THE MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSION

    I would never have thought that I will end up as a mental health consultant not until some years ago when a very close friend of mine had a mental breakdown at the reception venue of her wedding…Fatigue? Stress? Excitement? Spiritual attack? African voodoo? Genetic or hereditary factor? God knows what was responsible! Having a previous professional background in education and agriculture, I made up my mind to pursue another discipline in mental health to find out the mystery behind my friend ordeal.
    Every woman looks forward to her wedding day as the happiest day of her life. Families, friends and well wishers always come together to celebrate with the bride and groom. Preparation is always in top gear towards this special day as most people believe that out of the three important events in every individual life (birth, wedding and death) it is only the wedding that one can witness. Contrary to this expectation, she had a mental breakdown at the reception venue of her wedding… God knows!
    This lady happened to be a close friend of mine right from our days in the university. Easy going and well cultured lady that will pass for a heaven built wife for any man. No ‘aristo’ (sugar daddy) as most university girls of nowadays will always go after them for the sake of money. I mean a lady with good behaviour in all aspect of life. The traditional wedding was done a day before and we all had fun fare as many of her friends gathered from all over the country to wish her well and celebrate with her. The court marriage was performed about two weeks to the wedding as was normally requested from the church official.
    The church programme started as any normal wedding. The couple were joined together as husband and wife in holy matrimony amidst joy and happiness from both families. Everything seems okay before we got to the reception. The reception venue was well decorated and item 7 was given a priority as we all eat and drank more than enough. The chairman of the occasion has just finished his speech and it was time for the couple’s first dance. Stella (not real name) was really happy and i bet she could not wait for them to finish the dance so that the event can come to an end and she will go to her husband house in peace. Not knowing what was awaiting her, she was dancing with the husband in a very modest way as she is a very shy lady.
    Most of her friend joined in the dance and well wisher were spraying them money as usually done at any event. Suddenly she began to move backwards and we all felt she was tired and her husband was jokingly saying that they should not exhaust his wife before their first night together little did he know that their first night together as husband and wife will not come until almost two years after the wedding. Stella started shouting, screaming and was talking out of content trying to pull off her wedding dress in the presence of everybody.
    People at the event noticed what happened and they began to take to their feet. The master of ceremony announced the end of the couple’s dance and the bride was taken to the changing room at the venue to save the situation. Still shouting and trying to pull off her wedding dress, people gathered and everybody was praying. Though the husband tried to pull himself together and gave the vote of thank and the wedding was brought to an end!
    The bride was later taken away from the venue amidst tight security. Families and friends were crying, praying and cursing anyone that could have been responsible for this bad incident. On getting to the house having getting a clear understanding of what has happened ‘mental breakdown’ different people with different opinion. There were intense prayers from different religion denominations. People were bringing out holy water from Jerusalem and pouring it out on the bride for her to calm down. Little did i know that if i had given more time to God i would have been like Pastor E.A Adeboye or Pastor D.K. Olukoya as i was binding and casting away the devil and speaking in tongues for God to intervene in this situation. Stella was too good for this thing to happen to her.
    Some were suggesting that she should be taken to herbalist, Church or any other place they know that she could receive immediate help. I was wondering in my mind that this lady for almost six years that i have known her at the university and even during our youth service year as a youth copper as never for a day misbehave or misconduct herself inappropriately, so what could have been responsible for this bad incident? Even friends that they grew up together were testifying that nothing like that as happened in the past that will suggest that she has mental illness or that mental illness is in their family, everybody was confused of what to do.

    Not long before people started making up stories that she was sprayed with cursed money at the reception. In fact some people even said that one of the husband’s ex girlfriends was responsible for this incident as the guy has already promised her marriage before he met Stella. Some were of the opinion that people in the village were responsible for this incident. Luckily for her because she was introduced to her husband by a friend of her as she has no boyfriend as at that time i wonder what they might be saying about her. Many were of the opinion that somebody was responsible for this incident and something as to be done about it either to appease the person or fight back.

    Thank God for an uncle of Stella a professor of plant science in the university who probably used his past years of experienced in science suggested that she should be taking to a psychiatric hospital for proper mental health assessment. I was among the first people to be condemning his suggestion and saying that God forbid! Families frowned at his suggestion and out rightly condemned this ideal. How can he be saying something like this! Doesn’t he know that it is a taboo to accept or declare that you have mental illness in Africa? As this will be in history against your unborn generation and behold tongues were waging against this man as if he has committed the worst crime. I wondered if he knows the implication of what he has just said madness…For God sake!
    This was the beginning of another life for Stella as she was made to suffer for almost three years patronising different churches and herbalist places with no remedy. A friend of us that visited her on one occasion at one of those places came back crying that she met her hand chained and her hair skinned to the scarp. Imagine a university graduate that supposes to know more than those people claiming to be taken care of her. Ignorance!
    I later found out that her uncle (Professor) got tired of all this mess and took her to a psychiatric hospital. At as this time nobody was against his suggestion again because they have all exhausted their suggested places of cure. At the psychiatric hospital she was assessed, diagnosed and they commenced treatment on her. Not long that she commenced treatment and began to respond to treatment. Lo and behold she was brought back to adjustable level of mental functioning.

    I had opportunity once to see her before i travelled abroad to join my husband. I can’t but marvelled at what God has done compared to the last time i saw her at the reception venue. She made me to realise that she was placed on some medication and that she is well enough to go about her normal life. She did not waste time to inform us that she was at that time pregnant with her first baby and that she is fully back in her husband house. To God’s glory as of today she is happily married with kids and a school teacher in one of the government schools. I began to wonder what type of medication she was given that has performed this wonderful job. She looks very well apart from gaining weight. Probably side effects from antipsychotic medication a discussion for another day.
    On arrival at the United Kingdom my first job was as a cleaner in a nursing home for mentally ill patient. I began to see different mental disorders and how people are being treated and brought to a level of functioning in their mental state. Not long after a vacant position emerged as a care assistant in the nursing home and i applied and was given the job. My interest began to aroused because of my friends experienced back home in Nigeria and i promised myself that i will one day become a mental health professional to look after people’s mental health for the sake of my dear friend. Today to the glory of God i am a registered mental health practitioner in the United Kingdom.

    The most interesting part of it is that as any other physical illness has got cure so also is mental illness! Many have even asked me before why have you chosen to study mental health (Psychiatry) why not something else. Some even said they cannot even stand the behaviour of the mentally ill patient. If i must tell you, they are the most wonderful people to work with as you easily build trust with them and they rely on you and become your friend for life. Building therapeutic relationship with patient is most often the basis in Psychiatry. People always asked if there is cure for this illness. I have heard a surgeon asking one of the psychiatric nurses if truly mental illness can be cured! Interestingly there is cure.
    Whether we like it or not mental illness do exist, Spiritual, science or both? Mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental health disorders characterised by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour or a combination of these, mediated by the brain and associated with distress and impaired functioning.

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