17 December 2011

Nigeria: Mental Health and Religion


Bassey felt a gentle touch on his right shoulder and he managed to open his eyes as he turned from a side of the bed. Though he couldn't see clearly now but he still managed to identify this young lady in immaculate white urging him to prepare to take his bath with her soft and caring voice.

As he made to get out of bed, he felt the pain coming from his left buttocks now the memory of what happened the previous day gradually unfolds. He was "bundled" to the emergency unit of Yaba Psychiatric Hospital by his father with the assistance of some hefty looking strangers.

He protested to this breach of his fundamental right, and then he was "injected in the buttocks even as he was shouting "poison... poison ... enemies ... " then a "blackout". His father a catholic adherent could not fathom what on earth could make his son to join Guru Maharaj sect after his graduation from the University.

He considered it a shame that this prodigal son now calls himself a "temple devotee" and would not work outside the religious camp. The day he came to visit his biological family in their Mushin apartment, his father felt highly embarrassed seeing his son in the regalia of Guru Maharaj sect.

He concluded that Bassey must be mad and must see a psychiatrist immediately. At Yaba, the young doctor on duty observed this struggling man in "strange" attire and he concluded even as he beckoned to the nurses: "largactil and valium injections!"

Yetunde's case slightly differed. She is a pretty-looking undergraduate of Economics in her early twenties. She's been a highly principled and focused girl. She was very religious and devoted as well to her studies. No wonder she was made the "mummy" of her fellowship in the campus the previous year, the alias given to the leader of the females in the fellowship. She has been spending more time to pray and fast for herself and the flock under her leadership.

Gradually, she became a strange face in the lecture halls and spent more time in the fellowship centre. Then, after a period of marathon fasting, she claimed she heard God's voice asking her to prepare for the evangelical work she had been called out to do.

The voice told her to lay aside every distraction including her academic pursuit. A month later, she was convinced the rapture would take place on a Sunday morning and so she announced to the faithful. Two days before the d-day, she had given out all her personal belongings and money to charity.

The following Monday morning it dawned on her co-travellers on this voyage' that something must be wrong with "Mummy Yetty". Her parents were sent for, because she refused to break her fast and declined to leave the bush at the back of the fellowship centre and insisted the rapture must take place.

The parents immediately concluded that their family enemies must be responsible for her strange behaviour. She was quickly taken to their white garment church where series of deliverance were conducted days and nights.

Yetunde had not slept for 5 days now and she had become more restless and agitated while "speaking in tongues" to unseen people. After two more churches were tried and her condition was deteriorating, a family friend suggested that her father should try a particular herbalist.

The latter was consulted in the night and Yetunde got chained down in his home. Mixtures of concoctions (and some white tablets) eventually made her to calm down but she became drowsy most times and sluggish too. After six weeks in Baba's house, she became pregnant and was still hearing Voices, not only God's but the devil too.

Finally, her father persuaded, reluctantly though, to move her to the psychiatric hospital. Her parents- still believe she is not mentally sick but experiencing religious matter that their enemies are jealous of. However, they are still wondering why Baba should impregnate this poor girl despite the huge consultation fees they have paid him.

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