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Public Perception About the Mentally Challenged

To start with, some facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are worth noting down:
1. About 23% of the world’s children and adolescents suffer mental disorder.
2. Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide
3.Over 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. Mental disorders and harmful use of alcohol contribute to many cases around the world.
4. War and disasters have a large impact on mental health and psychosocial well-being.
5.Mental disorders are important risk factors for other diseases (eg. Cardiovascular diseases,HIV, diabetes etc.) as well as unintentional and intentional injury.
6. Stigma and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care.
7. Human rights violations of people with mental and psycho-social disability are routinely reported in most countries.
Mental challenge could be viewed as anything or condition that draws on the mind’s serenity leading to instability in the character of a person. The causes of mental challenges are not easy to pinpoint due to the several interrelated factors that contribute to it. However, it may arise from issues bordering on depression, anxiety, low self-esteem (anorexia, bleaching, drug abuse etc.) or something as simple as the fear that develops into phobia. Psychotic regimes arising from traumatic experiences may also be fingered as a cause of mental challenges.

In a world where we’re all in a mental battle for the myriads of problems that constantly plague us, it is common to find one man treat another of more profound unsound characteristics rather contemptuously. Such treatments ride on long held perceptions of the condition; which perceptions are the subject of this discourse.
In this part of the world, Ghana, if not the whole Africa, aside the socioeconomic, emotional and genetic dimensions, mental illnesses are also attributed to the spiritual realm if the causes are inexplicable. While some believe that the sins of the ancestors are visited upon subsequent generations as a curse depending on the form of mental challenge prevalent in a particular family, others allude to a fiend invocation stemming from jealousy and other related sentiments; or an invocation to establish a physical dominion in a challenge.

It is also common to find people hastily conclude that any young man gallivanting the streets in utter madness may be culpable in drug use, especially heroin or too much learning. And an office worker who suddenly begins to act funny is either probed for family history of mental illness and where evidence is wanting, colleagues at the office become objects of unfavourable suspicion and wild defamatory speculations. Only few will corner depression and question it.

Many hold the notion that mental challenges cannot be cured or totally cured which is reflected in the popular saying that, “a mad person may claim a total cure from madness but there persists a little madness that is enough to scare children.” Thus stigma and discrimination against the mentally challenged is so strong that even the men and women who set down their lives to the cure of such people (Psychiatrists), are themselves ridiculed as acting as their patients in the long run.

Interest in human predicaments has led to the development of medicine to tackle them. It is in this vain that Psychiatry was introduced to combine psychology with medicine to treat mental challenges where possible but people shy away from psychiatric hospitals where help exists, to escape the mockery from society.
Indeed, people have recovered from serious mental challenges to assume normal lives and contribute to development. It is still the case today and will be the case over tomorrow and forever. Whenever we see a mentally challenged person, let’s stop in time and consider the various causes of the disease and remind ourselves that, “that could be us.”

And when the temptation gets stronger to trample upon them further and send their tendency of normalcy deep down the cliff, let’s exercise empathy and act out love. What they may be enduring may be beyond our shallow perceptions and wildest deepest imaginations. After all, we’re all mentally challenged.
In conclusion, let’s all remember the mental health awareness month and let’s challenge ourselves as professionals and citizen to make a difference to change the world’s perception about mental illness.

Quarshie Perez Jonathan & A.G Elikem

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