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Why many of mentally deranged shun medical treatment, go spiritual

By Kemi Olatunde


Residents of Arogbo in Ese-Odo local government area of Ondo State will not forget in a hurry the terrible day a full blown mentally deranged man burst into a secondary school and strangulate a student.

The 14 year-old boy, Beke Meretighan, was a JSS 3 student writing his Junior West African Examination at Ijaw National High School Arogbo, Ese Odo LG. The assailant ran into the school premises pursuing the students as they were shouting, “were, mad man!!!.”

He was reported to have grabbed the deceased, put his head under his armpit and strangulated him to death before the arrival of the school management.

Also about five years ago, Akure High Court handled a case where a mentally deranged man raped a woman and killed her afterwards on a farm path in Akunnu Akoko. During the court proceedings, the young man confessed that he committed the offense and had killed her afterwards because he was angry but he could not recollect why he got angry.

Following the establishment of the fact that he was not with his senses when he committed the offense, he was only committed to a mental institution by the court despite the gruesome act he had committed.

Despite the danger mentally deranged pose to the society, many of them are abandoned by their family members who ought to seek medical attention for them. Due to this neglect, they are left to wander around which constitute a threat to members of the public.

Mentally deranged people are eyesores that dot the landscape of major cities of Nigeria.

According to National Library on Medicine, more than 70 percent of people with mental illness globally receive no treatment from health care staff. Evidence suggests that factors increasing the likelihood of treatment, avoidance or delay before presenting for care include lack of knowledge to identify features of mental illnesses, ignorance about how to access treatment, prejudice against people who have mental illness, and expectation of discrimination against people diagnosed with mental illness.

Findings from another published journal also revealed that 78 percent of Nigerians with mental illness shun the hospital where they can access appropriate care, rather, they tend to find solace in religious’ healing centres

Speaking with The Hope, Chief of Staff of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria

(PFN), Ondo State, Rev. Akindele Smart Omoge stressed the need for enlightenment among patients, stating that it is important that they present themselves at the hospital for proper medical check.

According to him; “People should know that apart from the spiritual aspect, there is the need to visit the hospital for necessary treatment. Those concerned should embrace medical treatment which will be beneficial to them and their families.”

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State Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Comrade Kehinde Olomiye noted that people’s perception differs calling for aggressive sensitisation of the public on mental health.

His words; “Most people believe that mental challenge is a spiritual attack and as such resort in most cases to churches for solution. This explains why a lot of mentally challenged persons are in churches especially the white garment churches.

“Those at the health education section of the Neuropsychiatric hospital should go on a sensitisation exercise of the public on mental health challenge and prevention in order to reduce the menace of mentally derailed persons roaming the streets.”

Assembly Pastor, Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Oluwayan, Akure, Pst. Moses Amole,  said that there is nothing wrong seeking healing in christian religious organisations, noting that perfect healing takes place there.

He explained that some illnesses including mental challenge need healing power of God.

His words; “The name of Jesus supersedes all other things especially concoction and rituals. In our church, a lot of people have been prayed for and were healed. We have had cases of those with mental challenge who have received their healing through water/anointing oil which we pray into and used by the people with faith in their heart.”

Speaking further, he revealed that the church used to have a healing home for mentally challenged persons when the founder of the church was alive, adding that it was no longer in place.

He described God as the source of Medical Doctors’ wisdom, noting that “doctors care while God heals.”

Backing his claims with several scriptural verses of the Bible, he stated that medication from the hospital can not be compared with the power of God.

He said; “There is a stream close to the church which we call ‘soku dalaye’. It is used for healing of several ailments and it will be used alongside faith in God by anyone who takes it. People come from all walks of life to get it. Every other power comes under the power of God. It will shock you to know that some Muslim clerics and traditionalists have Holy Bible which they consult. Every other power comes under the power of Jesus, hence, only those who come to Him become saved.

“When the founder of the church was alive, he kept them in a place to care for them but after his demise seven years ago, the place ceased to exist but anyone with mental challenge who comes around, we pray for him and they become healed. We may ask them to bring water or anointing oil which we pray into for their use and this has been working to the Glory of God.”

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Also speaking with The Hope on condition of anonymity, a herbalist described traditional medication as the best, noting that various herbs are used for the overall well-being of the patient.

His words; “The best way to heal anyone with mental challenge is to go the traditional way especially when the approved place is visited. There are some concoctions which would be eaten or bathe with while certain sacrifices would be made in order to ward off  evil from the terrestrial world.

“The concoction which is used to bath by patient cleans off the hands of the evil ones while the one eaten flushes out those inside the body.

“Traditional medicine cure deeply than injection which most times suppresses.”

On the contrary, medical experts are of the opinion that mental illnesses are medical conditions which respond favourably to medical treatment, hence, they are never spiritual but medical problem.

Dr. Akinwumi Akinnuoye of the Ondo State Neuropsychiatric hospital, Akure in a chat with The Hope explained that people’s perception about mental health determines the help they seek.

Speaking extensively, he said; “In Africa, due to relatively low level of education and exposure which affect understanding, people attribute spiritual causes to things that are unexplainable to them. Some clear issues too are attributed to spiritual problem for instance, physical illness.

“The symptoms of mental illnesses can’t behold and as such, they find the expression strange, hence attributing it to a spiritual attack and when this is acceptable as such, they tend to shun the hospital initially to seek help elsewhere after which they return to the hospital to eventually get treatment.”

He revealed that over 80 percent of the patients in the hospital have been to different spiritual places before resolving to visit the hospital for medical treatment.

Stating reasons why patients don’t embrace initial hospital visitation, he listed poverty and ignorance among others calling for cooperation between patients and families for effective treatment.

“Poverty is a major cause of the action but interestingly, many of them pay more in these spiritual places than the hospital. The spiritual places have unregulated activities and as such cajole their patients to pay exorbitant fee for treatment. They lie to the patients in order to extort their purses.

“The fact is, some patients need not less than N1000 or N2000 drug to survive while others fall into the category of between N7000 and N8000 to get well.

“Many of the claims of those in charge of these spiritual places are false as they go extra mile to give false testimony which most times are staged in order to deceive unsuspecting people who may need their help.

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“Some patients actually got better through these spiritual places and it is in two categories; for many of these places, when they notice that their patients aren’t getting better, they use the drug we use in the hospital by dissolving it in water which they call ‘Holy water.’  They have no prescribed dose, hence resulting in overdose in patients which has adverse effects on them. When this happens, the patients are rushed to us in the hospital. At this stage, most times, the patients may have come down with complications which may not be reversible.

“The point is, different patients need different quantity of drug to survive. Patient A may need 2mg while others may need 6mg of the same prescribed drug.

“Another category is that some mental illness are transient and receptive. When you don’t treat some of them, the patient may be healed at a point only to reoccur later. Due to non treatment of some of them, it leads to complications including suicide, loss of important relationships etc.

“The hospital knows the principle of treatment so that patients can function well in the society but the spiritual places are ignorant of this fact, hence the reoccurrence of the illnesses in their patients.”

He called on families of those with mental challenge to take them to appropriate hospital for proper care, adding that they shun spiritual places for the benefit of the patient.

Mental health should not be ignored as countless number of individuals are dealing with conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, mental health is often seen as a taboo topic. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Part of the reason mental health is often ignored is because there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness. For many people, mental illness is seen as a sign of weakness.

While the majority of people with mental health conditions will likely not need to spend time in a hospital or treatment center, an individual may need to be hospitalized so that they can be closely monitored and accurately diagnosed, have their medications adjusted or stabilized, or be monitored during an acute episode when their mental illness temporarily worsens.

Why many of mentally deranged shun medical treatment, go spiritual

When culture meets systems

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