UWR recovered mental patients call for an end to stigmatisation against them

Some recovered mental health patients in the Upper West Region are calling for an end to stigma against them which negatively affected their economic activities and livelihood.

A former hairdresser, MsSamataTomeh who was diagnosed with a mental health condition when she got pregnant, told the Ghanaian Times in an interview here on Wednesday that she went out of business because people refused to patronise her salon even after she was cured.

“I invested money to revamp my business and bought all the necessary items needed yet no one patronised the shop and they even labelled it as the “mad woman’s salon,” she narrated.

MsTomeh explained that she was very healthy until she conceived after marriage and developed the condition which made her husband abandon her as he could no longer deal with the associated stigma from his friends.

“I needed to fend for myself and my child but there were no clients coming in so I closed the salon for menial jobs to survive,” she said.

A resident of Kalsegra in the Lawra Municipality, Ms Vera Tierualso lamented that the discrimination did not only affect her business but members of her family as well.

“My adult brother was talking to a lady but the mother of the lady stopped him from doing so with the excuse that she did not want her daughter to also go mad,” she bemoaned.

MsTierusaid she was once married to a man she sponsored through training college but said the man abandoned her when she developed the mental health condition after getting pregnant for him.

“I had to abandon my work as a house help for an Indian couple in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region and return home to Lawrafor treatment but I was unable to engage in any meaningful economic venture as a result of the stigma,” she explained.

She stated that with the help of a non-governmental organisation, Centre for People’s Rights Initiative (CPRI), she together with several others received financial support for petty trading.

“CPRI supported me with money to start making pastries for sale and I sell them to schools, religious gatherings and areas where the stigma was relatively lower.

The Programmes Coordinator for the CPRI, Mr Dominic Wunigura said they had a network of such persons in self-help groups with similar experiences who required support.

“We are sensitising the public to halt the stigma because it can lead to suicidal thoughts, cause depression and affect livelihood activities,” he said.

MrWunigura also condemned associate stigma which involved looking down on persons associated with mental health patients and said the stigma was fueled by traditional and religious believes that defined mental health as a curse or a spiritual issue.

The Regional Mental Health Coordinator, Mr Sylvester Basagnia explaining how certain women developed mental health conditions during pregnancies said it was due to hormonal changes.

“The burden of anxiety, stress, depression and lack of support from partners cause some women to develop such conditions, especially after delivery,” he said.

The Coordinator explained that stigma could interfere with the recovery of patients and called on the public to desist from using harsh words on persons with mental health conditions.

“Depending on the person, some people due to stigma may decide not to seek medical care and the bold ones who do recover at very slow pace as stigma compounds their mental health condition,” he added.

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