• May 29th, 2020

Over and above the complexities of mental health

“The birds are following me. They are following us.” These were lines repeatedly uttered by a frightened Martin to his sister Grace, as he squeezed himself further to the corner of the single cab bakkie in which they were travelling. The skies are clear, and the road to the campsite in the Auas Mountains was empty. 
What was supposed to be a bonding weekend for the siblings made Grace (Martins older sibling) realise that something serious was wrong with her brothers’ mental health. 

To prove a point, Grace enquired about the birds in the air, and the owners of the establishment explained that they feed the birds, hence their presence on the farm as they are well known for their bird diversity and they accommodate bird watchers frequently. 
Grace felt reassured, but Martin was not convinced. 

Martin*, not his real name was diagnosed with Schizophrenia nearly a year ago and joined thousands of other young Namibians diagnosed with mental health illness. Last year, the Southern Times newspaper reported that there were 26 000 patients treated for various mental illnesses in 2016. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Schizophrenia is a treatable mental disorder. It is characterized by profound disruptions in thinking, affecting language, perception, and the sense of self. 
“I think my brother struggled internally with his mental health, the signs were there, but I do not think that as a family, we picked up the signs, also, one is not always conscious of mental disorders, but one of the signs that was clear was that he became withdrawn and very quiet, and he had no appetite – as a result, lost a lot of weight,” shares Grace. 

Speaking to O’yetu from his home in Katutura, where he lives with his mother and siblings, Martin says that it was a difficult time. “I felt as though I was going crazy. I could not sleep. I was hearing voices. I could not concentrate in class and could not sit and listen in class. I was living in a world that I felt was real that was not real and had episodes in class and even at home.” 

Characteristics according to WHO include psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or delusions and can impair functioning through the loss of an acquired capability to earn a livelihood, or the disruption of studies. 

Since diagnosed with the mental disorder, Martin has seen himself in and out of the Windhoek Psychiatric Hospital, on and off his medication due to the side effects, which he says can be nerve-wracking and as a result has had to drop out of school for a year. 

“It was a difficult time, for us as a family and moreso for him. Also, growing up in Katutura, or anywhere really in Windhoek – mental health disorders are not openly discussed or embraced. I also have no awareness of anyone from our family with this disorder – mental health disorders are shunned upon conditions,” shared Grace as a matter of fact, and urged families to reach out when confronted by these sorts of issues as there are people going through what they are going through. 

Now aged 22, a soft spoken Martin says that he looks forward to his recovery and that he is happy to have control over his life again. 

The first year student said he is excited to be back in school and looks forward to completing his degree in tourism. He urged young people to stay away from alcohol and drug abuse, and friends who are toxic. 
Written by: O’yetu features, bringing you real stories of everyday Namibians.

Staff Reporter
2019-09-27 09:51:04 | 8 months ago

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