I am on the executive of the Global Mental Health Peer Network representing Cameroon, and since my advocacy begun forcefully in 2013, I have come to sadly realize our society still sees mental illness as such a debilitating and daunting 'whatever', a mentally ill is 'expected' to remain handicapped all their life to sort of 'justify' their marginalization and even rejection masked as sympathy.
When I went all out to share my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, many went wow. They reached out to me mainly in private to say I didn't look nor behave like a mentally ill. As in, how should one with a mental illness behave?
I did my psychotherapist internship at the lone psychiatric ward in the main public hospital in my city (Laquentinie hospital Douala - Cameroon), and oh my I was so moved. The way patients were treated, you could leave there worse than you came.
I met a patient in 'isolation' at the time (April 2018) called Albert, and he is well into recovery now and authorized that I share his story to raise awareness and sensitize the community (Some had such a big problem with this and reached out to me saying it was wrong doing so- how do we combat stigma then I wonder?). He lives with me since being discharged in June, my spirit moved me to take him in. I am linking the video interview we did last October, and yesterday we celebrated his 39 th birthday.
He was diagnosed with Schizophrenia 25 years ago and spent most of his life institutionalized with native doctors or chained up in some home in the village. But, thank God, his family has come to appreciate all my efforts and they support him wholly, he is so so better, he even runs my home in my absence hahaha. He has learned to take care of himself, to cook, to have confidence in himself, to use a phone etc
No, mental illness nor any other illness for that matter should be a handicap: recovery is possible.