Have Ghanaians really gone bunkers?

Accra Psychiatric Hospital2 Last year, the Accra Psychiatric Hospital stopped admissions due to lack of funds

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 Source: Samuel Adjei Sarfo

I think it has become the stock-in-trade of psychiatrists in this country to throw numbers around to show that a substantial percentage of Ghanaians suffer from one type of mental disease or another.

They do this without giving any specificities as to what type of mental diseases Ghanaians are suffering from, or how to prevent or cure the general mental malaise they have peremptorily diagnosed. But unless one considers the trifecta factors of religion, tribalism and superstition, one cannot effectively characterize our citizens as mentally disabled.

The latest numbers were bandied about by one such psychiatrist who recently disclosed that over 41% of Ghanaians suffer from some form of psychological/mental disorder. Without disclosing any source or data or even the exact population which was studied; and without explaining what type of disorder is affecting such a huge section of our population, the good doctor glibly pronounced almost 50% of our population as having gone bunkers.

Of course, when psychiatrists speak in these sordid albeit generalized terms against our population, they have the duty to tell us exactly the type/s of mental diseases that afflict the population and also the research method and statistical data they used in arriving at their conclusions; otherwise we will also have the right to diagnose them ourselves and put them in the column of mad hatters; and what we state, as common people, will not have any less credulity than their own diagnosis.

And we will have the right to do so because Psychiatry as a medical discipline is after all grossly speculative and therefore not even a science in the real meaning of the term. If in doubt, count the number of mad guys on our streets and question how effective all these psychiatrists have been in treating any of them.

After all, from the very old times, this area of medicine has incurred the suspicion of many discerning scholars. Husbands or wives or relatives used to concoct mental diseases for their family members and to consign them to mental institutions so they could appropriate their properties and resources. And there were many instances when these psychiatrists usually conspired and connived with these relatives in order to share in the booty.

That fact partly informs the hatred of the Scientologists for psychiatrists who they have properly dubbed as pseudo-scientists.

As recently as in the mid twentieth century, a typical treatment of a person with any diagnosed mental conditions was the electric shock, wherein the patient was all trussed up like turkey and had high electric current administered through him or her. In many instances, this led to severe memory loss, patent brain damage or even instant death. That mode of treatment is now pretty much discredited.

Nowadays, most of the treatments for mental disorder is the ingestion of psychotropic pills which often leads to serious side effects, addiction and even death. This type of treatment has proven grossly inefficient. But I suspect that these psychiatrists who have diagnosed almost half of Ghanaians as virtually crazy have their eyes on prescribing psychotropic pills for the population for their own profits?

And this inefficiency within conventional mode of psychiatric treatment is due to the fact that the treatment of every mental disease ought to be highly individualized since the cause for each mental disorder is also individualistic. These causes could be economic, social or cultural or simply religious or superstitious. Thus, the one suffering from any mental disease has underlying economic and social and cultural/religious circumstances that are peculiar to him or her, and that ought to be identified and removed from his or her situation before he or she will respond to treatment.

For example, if the person is jobless and therefore poor or hungry, a solution to his mental problems has nothing to do with psychotropic pills or even confinement into a mental asylum. The person needs a job and money, Period! And his cure will lie in offering him those things. If you give him pills, he is going to go worse; and if you put him in an institution, he is merely going to compete with other inmates and specialize in how to get even crazier.

Moreover, if the person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, then those are the factors to be tackled as a pre-requisite to the cure, not some psychotropic drugs that will merely worsen the addiction and instigate cycles of relapse and eventual revolving door from the mental hospital and back into the streets and vice versa.

But at the foundation of the diagnoses of mental disorders in the advanced countries is a book called DMS-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Volume Five) which contains a list of mental diseases. In this book is found a long range of diseases such as Clinical Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and so on, all of which were voted on to be included in the book by Psychiatrists at their annual meetings. Even at some points in the past, racism/tribalism, religious fanaticism and superstition were considered for inclusion in this manual of mental disorders but eventually voted out by some skeptical psychiatrists.

At some point in the future, the list might well include all these patent disorders.

And when the DMS finally comes to include racism/tribalism, religious fanaticism and superstition, that is when 90% of Ghanaians will rightly be declared truly mentally disordered. After all, if you consider the definition of psychological/Mental Disorder as a pattern of behavioral symptoms that impact multiple life areas and create distress for the people experiencing these, then I daresay that the total population of Ghana could be mentally disordered merely on the three aforementioned bases.

For there is indeed some mental disorder in viewing any race or group as comprising a monolithic entity; and in the faith and belief in books written by ancient nomads that promise a kingdom in the skies. There is also some diagnoseable mental disorder in superstition for which we follow all these crazy prophets, both past and present, that are always predicting doom and gloom and taking so much money from the poor.

There is extreme mental disorder in dissociating the causes of our actions from the effects of our conduct. There is mental disorder in the belief in witchcraft, in the belief that our sins will be forgiven by the mere mention of the name of someone that died two thousand years ago. Finally, there are mental disorders in our faith in lies like juju money, in our worship of the rivers and the mountains, in our cultural bunkum for which we go about committing barbaric acts…….

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, J.D., is a general legal practitioner in Austin, Texas, USA. You can email him at sarfoadjei@yahoo.com

Columnist: Samuel Adjei Sarfo