An outpatient of the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital who preferred to be known with the pseudonym of Babajide turned 35 today. He shared his journey and travails in being in and out of several psychiatric hospitals with the Editor-In-Chief.
Below are the excerpts:
EIC: Can we get to meet you?
Babajide: I am Babajide and today is my birthday; I turned 35 today. I was born and bred in Lagos though I am an Egba man from Ogun State. I have a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of Ibadan.
EIC: When were you first diagnosed of mental illness?
Babajide: In 2003 at 16.
EIC: What were you diagnosed of?
Babajide: Initially I was diagnosed of multiple substance abuse but that wasn’t the true picture of this as I lied to the doctors that I used hard drugs. I wanted to gain love and affection from my parents which made me lie that I used hard drugs.
EIC: What was the true diagnosis?
Babajide: I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
EIC: Which hospital were you first admitted to?
Babajide: Yaba Psychiatric Hospital.
EIC: How many times have you been in Yaba Psychiatric Hospital:
Babajide: About five times at different occasions.
EIC: Which other hospitals have you been to?
Babajide: Aro in Abeokuta several times, a private hospital in Lagos and Jos.
EIC: Can you share your experiences in the different hospitals both government and private?
Babajide: In Yaba I was acting stupid and wasn’t supposed to be there as I lied which led to my being sent to the drug ward. The facilities were terrible as I didn’t learn anything in my various stays there. The occupational therapy or OT was a sheer waste of time. The experience was pretty much the same in Aro. I didn’t really open up my mind in Lagos and Jos as I lied to the doctors severally; the truth is I fabricated stories to remain there as I wanted to be away from reality and saw my admission there as the perfect way to escape.
EIC: How did you cope with your studies taking the medication and injections as a student of UI albeit as a distance learning student in Lagos?
Babajide: Initially when I was on Adol, I used to find it difficult grasping what I studied in school and it made me very dull but when it was changed to Respidal, I coped better with it and graduated with a Second Class Upper.
EIC: Can you tell us your NYSC experience?
Babajide: I served in Lagos and I stopped taking my medication which made me relapse. I had to be hospitalized in Yaba and was forced to leave the school I was doing my primary assignment in.
EIC: What is your view with the general assertion that Nigerian patients tend to be on lifelong medication?
Babajide: I feel that the issue of taking drugs for life by all is a mass approach. I feel mine was a spiritual problem which didn’t warrant taking of drugs for life. Mine wasn’t a chemical imbalance in my brain and I feel patients whose challenge is spiritual should be weaned off the drugs at some point.
EIC: Do you feel that counselling can be a potent substitute for the medication?
Babajide: Yes I feel so because according to a renowned priest and psychologist, Fulton Sheen said when the unconscious mind becomes conscious, mental difficulties disappear. The cause of mental illness is not always due to a chemical imbalance in the brain but there are other factors like environmental, demonic influence etc. I feel the psychiatrists should take a whole look at the background of the patient with the aid of psychologists and there should be a gradual tapering of it.
EIC: HIV drugs have been free in many parts of Nigeria since 2006; should psychiatric medications be free as well?
Babajide: I feel it should be free too because one of the major reasons why people relapse is because of the high cost of the medication. The Federal Government should make it free so that it would improve the overall welfare of mentally challenged patients.
EIC: In the public hospitals, patients see different doctors; do you feel for better treatment it should just be one doctor?
Babajide: Yes because if you see one particular doctor he knows your history rather than seeing many who may not have a full grasp of your mental health background.
EIC: There is usually a large crowd on clinic days in public hospitals which aggravates the stress of the patients. How can it be reduced?
Babajide: There should a holistic approach towards treating mental illness asides drugs. I feel that counsellors, psychologists and even pastors should play an active role which will reduce the pressure on the doctors. The government should also build more mental health hospitals to help reduce the pressure on the psychiatrists.
EIC: In Nigerian public hospitals, the psychologists seem to be relegated to the background; do they really have a role to play?
Babajide: They have a big role to play because according to Fulton Sheen the root cause of mental illness is a moral breakdown in a person’s life or a negation of conscience. I feel the psychologists have a role from that perspective to bring the patient back to sanity. Most doctors just assume that its due to a chemical imbalance in the brain but there is the moral factor which is also important.
EIC: Do you have a job now?
Babajide: I don’t have a job at the moment; my passion is education but no teaching job has been forthcoming for now.
EIC: If you get a job, how will you combine it with your monthly doctor appointments?
Babajide: I hope to see a Catholic private doctor who will look into the mental issues of my challenge and wean me off the drugs gradually by God’s Grace.
EIC: In the interim before that happens, how easy will it be to go for your appointments and monthly injection?
Babajide: Honestly, I don’t know how I will combine that with a job as the stigmatization from employers is very high.
EIC: How can stigmatization be combated?
Babajide: It can be combated if the government agencies through the mass media can sensitize people that mentally challenged people aren’t witches or wizards that the illness can happen to anybody. They should be shown love and compassion rather than scorn and discrimination.
EIC: How does it feel to be 35 – the second half of your life if we are to go by the Biblical three score and 10?
Babajide: I feel great and happy that God has given me the opportunity to live to this age and I hope to contribute my quota to the society when I get a teaching job.
EIC: Do you have plans to marry and raise a family?
Babajide: If that is the will of God, yes.
EIC: Should healthcare for employees cover mental health insurance by their employers?
Babajide: I believe so because as said earlier it can happen to anybody. Everyone is prone to having a mental breakdown and so the insurance should cover it. A mental health breakdown touches the core of your personality. For instance, I tore my certificates because of the illness and so this should be taken seriously.
EIC: As a way to fight stigmatization do you think that patients should be more open about their health challenge?
Babajide: Yes, they should be more open about it because its an illness that can happen to anybody. It is good to tell your employer so that you can always go for your medical appointment. For example, during my NYSC, if I had told my employer, I would have been going for my appointments regularly which would have prevented a relapse.
EIC: How do you feel taking medications twice daily, monthly injections and a blood test?
Babajide: Taking the medications isn’t difficult for me because it has been reduced and I am not feeling much of the side effects. My problem is with the injections because the nurses sometimes fail to observe protocol by using gloves. The monthly blood test has scarred my hands and its difficult getting blood from my veins.
EIC: Thank you for your time; we wish you a happy birthday from here and many more years of prosperity. Any last word?
Babajide: Everyone should follow their conscience so that they wouldn’t have a conflict between their minds which is always the root cause of mental illness asides those that stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain.
The views of Babajide is personal and doesn’t represent the opinion of www.africavoiceshq.