Local creative Lukas Amakali says one of the processes of healing is acknowledging that one has a problem, seeking help, and ensuring treatment is followed to the tee to properly heal from whatever a person is going through.
The photographer/painter shared that he is a proud mental health patient, who has been using pills for 28 years. “I have been using the tablets, and they are working. It’s only that there comes phases where people want to leave the tablets, but they are just like high blood pressure medication or ARVs. It’s normal,” he said at the observance of World Mental Health Day last week.
Speaking at the Mental Health Centre of the Windhoek Central Hospital, Amakali added that people with mental illness can navigate normal life.
“I was diagnosed with a mental condition on 1 October 1995. I was allowed to work for First National Bank, and this happened until I went to Standard Bank,” he said.
During that period when he was working, he was and continues to be an active and productive person in the creative industry through his photography and paintings.
“I am a photographer and a visual artist. Apart from that, I am a father of three. I was told that I can’t have children because they are going to inherit the condition, but it’s the Almighty to decide. Today, I have three children: one boy and two lovely daughters,” said the proud parent, who is also a poet.
He observed that social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists are key personnel who are tasked with treating mental health-related conditions, and there is a need to cooperate with them.
“I am proud of the staff who have dedicated their time to treat us, especially the likes of Dr Hileni Ndjaba, who also treats me sometimes. I don’t know why I go wrong, but that is the devil’s work,” he commented on his relapse episodes.
Amakali said he is now more than ever determined to do good, and maintain a positive attitude towards life and treatment.
Psychiatrist Dr Ndjaba told Vital Signs yesterday that medications vary from psychotic types of medication and anti-depressants. The duration a patient takes the medication also varies.
“We do what we call a biopsychosocial model of approach. Biologically, the person will be put on antidepressants. Psychologically, they go for psychotherapy by the psychologist, and if they identify a problem which is socially related, they go to the social worker for their social well-being,” explained Ndjaba.
The medical professional added that because conditions do disable people, they also go for occupational therapy. Hence, they work as a psychosocial model with different professionals.
On mental health being hereditary, Ndjaba said “not all of them, but the majority of them can be hereditary. They can be from unknown causes, and they can come about because of other environmental-related issues”.
Although some patients are fully aware of their conditions, she noted that mental illnesses, especially those with psychotic disorders or some mood disorders, have lost touch with reality.
“They form their reality, and it is very difficult for you to even educate them to understand that they have got a medical condition. That’s why sometimes it’s blindly treated so that you take care of them when you can engage with a patient, and they must do inside orientation. First, for them to accept or to understand that they’ve got a mental condition, indicative they need treatment and the importance of taking treatment,” she highlighted.
Ndjaba said: “Stigma continues to be an issue. Some patients have self-stigma, questioning why they have the condition, and sometimes being in denial that they have the condition. Then you get institutional stigma, where they have a mental illness and need to go to a facility which provides help, but they believe those institutions are for the mentally ill and crazy people, and not for them. Those further delay treatment”.
She thus encouraged Namibians to help fellow countrymen and women who are suffering from mental illness, and to ensure that they are supported so that they can get the treatment they deserve.