At the age of four months, Paul Neah had seizure one day when he was left at home with his siblings in a suburb of Monrovia.After he was taken to a hospital, doctors believed that Paul's illness was caused by high fever.
Since then, Paul has struggled with frequent seizures. His impoverish parents would usually help him with some medications, but every now and then devastating seizures would strike.
The despair of his parents escalated as the seizures took a toll on their 12-year-old son. They have visited several hospitals to get the help their son requires, but none has proved successful.
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems at some stage in their life. And service delivery reports from Mental Health Clinicians trained by the Carter Center show that seizure related cases constitute a significant proportion of conditions seen by the clinicians.
Mental Health Clinicians trained by the Carter Center show that seizure related cases constitute a significant proportion of conditions seen by the clinicians.
Around 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally. Nearly 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income countries with Liberia being no exception.
It is estimated that up to 70 percent of people living with epilepsy could live seizure free if properly diagnosed and treated.
Neurological disorders in children occur when something is abnormal in the brain, the nervous system or the muscle cells. These disorders can vary from epilepsy to migraine headaches to tic or movement disorders and more. Children are either born with the neurological disorder like having fluid in the brain or they acquire the disorder later in life as a result of a traumatic injury or serious infection.
Having experienced the neurological disorder since infancy, Paul unfortunately has not been able to seek proper medical treatment due to poverty of his family.
Consequently, his condition is worsening and he is constantly facing stigmatization in his community.
Paul is very friendly and serviceable. As such, some unsupportive community members would usually take advantage of him by treating him badly, while others may have him cut their grass, fetch water and do their laundry.
Sarah Neah, the foster mother of Paul told this Mental Health reporter that her stepson was not born with the neurological disorder, adding "at some stage of his life, he behaves abnormal with fluids oozing from his mouth".
After Paul stopped breastfeeding (from his biological mother who is deceased now) his stepmother explained, he began to show early signs of speech impediment.
"Community dwellers and other people called my stepson different names such as crazy man, zep-sey, bold losing, brain sick, cracky among other.
"My son usually requests a particular meal and if it is not prepared, he becomes provoked, leaves the house and returns if satisfied," she said.
She stressed that her stepson does not like to be provoked, teased, or bullied, pointing out, "at time he becomes violent".
Though she said her stepson has been ill for several years, but that does not give others the right to provoke or take advantage of him, adding, "my stepson is not a violent person".
With tears rolling from the eyes, Sarah said her stepson has experienced lots of trauma since childbirth, "I believe that he will one day be healed by his creator".
Judging from the experience of other mentally ill persons and those with neurological problems who have recovered from their condition and are now stable and productive citizens in the society, Sarah mentioned that her stepson can also recover.
She indicated that her stepson condition has become an embarrassment to the entire adding, "my family is now being stigmatize by the community".
"We (the family members) do not stigmatize or discriminate against him because the condition is something every human could experience in life," Said said.
Stigma and discrimination are often more difficult to live with than the mental or neurological problem itself.