Mental Illness shouldn't be a handicap: Recovery is possible

Marie Abanga
Posted December 6, 2018 from Cameroon

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.

Comments 16

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jlanghus
Dec 06
Dec 06

Hi Marie,

Wow! Another amazing story and post from you. Keep 'em coming:-) I'm so impressed that you're raising the bar on awareness around the stigma of mental illnesses, and that you took in Albert and helped him... just wow! So much love and care.... truly remarkable. Thanks for sharing your story and video:-)

Hope you're having a great day!

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Dear Jill,

Thank you very much. Indeed, what my brother and I went through, what we got in terms of suffering and the different diagnosis - he got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and myself with PTSD, I vowed I wasn't staying silent anymore.
My spirit led me to Ekema and he is with me as I build the Mental Health Care Support Centre, first on parer then on concrete.
Thank you so much
I am doing fine and wish you well too

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Dear Jill,

Thank you very much. Indeed, what my brother and I went through, what we got in terms of suffering and the different diagnosis - he got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and myself with PTSD, I vowed I wasn't staying silent anymore.
My spirit led me to Ekema and he is with me as I build the Mental Health Care Support Centre, first on parer then on concrete.
Thank you so much
I am doing fine and wish you well too

jlanghus
Dec 09
Dec 09

Hi Marie:-)

You're very welcome! Good for you!

Very nice:-)

Great to hear. I'm doing well, too, thanks:-)

Ngwa Damaris
Dec 06
Dec 06

This is so true!!! The stigma attached to mental illness in Cameroon is just so traumatizing .

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Dear Damaris,

Thank you for your comment. You sure know what you are talking about.
Xoxo

Lis Sal
Dec 06
Dec 06

Hi sis. Marie,
Thanks for sharing your story and video with us. I appreciate your kind gesture toward the lonely in society
Regards
Lizzy

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Hi Lizzy,

We thank God. It's my life's purpose I am fulfilling and I am so happy doing that.
Warm regards
Marie

Kay Link
Dec 06
Dec 06

The stigma against people with mental illness is heartbreaking, as they need compassion, love, and care as everyone does. Thank you for sharing this story and the video interview with Albert to raise awareness.

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Dear Kay,

Thanks so much for your comment. Yes there is still such traumatizing stigma you wonder if mental illness does not concern the same health of a person just like physical health does. Are the two really different anyways? Cam you have a physical illness without any mental perturbations? Do mental illness and challenges not lead to physical symptoms like 'migraines, tremors, inflamed legs, joints etc'?
I will share for as long as I can, indeed to raise awareness and advocate for a paradigm shift.

Mauwa Brigitte
Dec 07
Dec 07

Hi MARIE ABANGA!
For mental illness recovery is possible if you are brought into the house of God for a strong prayer and the person will be quickly restored. And do his job as usual. You have a heart of compassion in helping others as Christ gave Himself, dying on the Cross for humanity. God bless you!

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Dear Briggitte,

Thanks for your comment. I however do not think only bringing people with a mental illness into the house of God will guarantee quick recovery. But that is maybe your opinion and that's ok.
I am grateful for the heart I have...in God I Trust always Amen

Theresa Takafuma
Dec 07
Dec 07

Dear Marie
Sister, your stories are gems! Mental health is a subject really close to my heart, and yes, stigma stings so painfully. Thank you for Albert's story and thank you for your kind heart. Let's keep raising our voices about it. One day our efforts will reward.
Love,
Theresa

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Dear Theresa,

Thank you so much for your comment. I strive to stigmatize stigma. No one can stigmatize me again nor anyone I have worked with like Ekema. I give God all the Glory. Sure one day all our efforts will pay.
Warm hugs
Marie

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 08
Dec 08

Hi Marie,
Thank you for raising awareness on this issue so beautifully, and thanks to Albert for speaking out with you to bring further understanding from such a personal perspective. Schizophrenia is such a "catch-all" word for mental health problems that happen to so many people. This video and both of your work, and the happiness and love shining through, will do so much to teach and demystify mental illness. Your work is so important, and I am so happy for Albert.

Marie Abanga
Dec 09
Dec 09

Dear Tam,

Thanks for your comment. I am so happy for the Grace to be doing what I am doing especially with regards to raising awareness about mental health and mental illness in my country. Here which ever name as long as it is strange and has any relationship with mental, can get people to stigmatize the person living with the condition. I really appreciate Albert for all his efforts too, he has come a very long way.
I really appreciate all your encouragement.
Warm Hugs
Marie