Locked up and forgotten
Have you watched the documentary, Locked Up and Forgotten?Do you relate it to the exact happenings around you? This is just among the untold stories of the world that no one ever wants to speak about .Do you think the government is failing? Do you think society is failing?Personally, I am at a crossroads. How can humanity allow this to happen .I grew up knowing that Mathari Hospital ,that is Kenya's Largest Psychiatric Facility, was a place for "mad people" because that is exactly how society puts it .Growing up I had a mentally challenged neighbour who was occasionally taken to Mathari Hospital for treatment, that never lasted long because he always went back to how he was after a few days at home.A question that still lingers in my mind is,does suffering from mental illness mean we are doomed from the normal world forever?
I actually draw this inspiration from my mother, who personally taught me to be mindful of the mentally challenged. He taught us that our neighbour's son deserved to be treated well despite his situation. Since his family was financially disadvantaged,my mum taught us that he deserved to be given food from our house ,even if it was the last one we had in the house.Ocassionally on Christmas days we would take food to him,although I was afraid of him at the time.He would tell his mum,"that daughter of our neighbour brought me food but she was afraid of me,why?" I wish he was still alive ,maybe I could try to outgrow the fear I had,because he passed on in 2019 ,but at least his life has taught me some great lessons of life.
The documentary still replays in my mind everytime I think about of the state of mental health in Kenya.I am probably going to visit Mathari Hospital soon because am eager to know whether the changes that the then Minister ,Prof Anyang' Nyong'o said they were trying to implement are coming to realisation, but maybe I may never be allowed access into the hospital because even those who captured the documentary were locked up for 3 hours by the authorities because of shooting videos .It is that sad ,the stories remain untold because we do not want the screens to be 'dirtied' by stories of 'mad men' locked up in chains at Mathari Hospital.
One story that shall never go untold is the fact that these patients live like prisoners, in fact they are.Tales of sexual assault by other 'inmates' in a place we call hospital ,that the hospital authority claim they have never heard of ,were reported by the patients themselves. I think we should actually differentiate between a hospital and a detention centre .Let us take a break from issues like depression and domestic violence, because we have actually made a significant step ,the country is actually advancing in terms of clinical counselling.
The then minister ,clearly states that they were not starving the country's mental health intentionally, but they LACK MONEY !You mean we have money to do other things but when it comes to mental health our pockets run dry .In May 2022,the Kenya Psychiatric Society President, Dr Chitayi stated to his audience at the Neuroscience talk that the money that the government allocates for mental health is very little. We don't lack,we are not just prioritizing things right .Mental health matters when it comes to productivity of a nation and that is why we need to get our priorities right as a country. I concur with a parent of one of the victims featured in the documentary who says if his son had been well,he actually could be helping them .We need to ponder on that statement, IF THEY HAD BEEN WELL .If we are still advancing in our health care as a nation,why not at least treat them as human beings ?
Society is failing too ,because if we leave alone the patients locked up in Mathari Hospital, what about those locked up back at home? Those we call 'mad people ' who we hide from the 'clean' and normal side of life.Some of them have never gone to a hospital for check up or any sort of treatment. Why? Because once you are mad,you are out of sight and mind .You only exist to your family who have the burden of caring for you and putting up with you .I am also prompted to know why most of these people come from families that are not well-off ,probably another topic of research. (I am going to dig deep into this relationship)
All in all,let us take a personal approach to this issue, we are the society I am talking about and no one should do this for us.
Have a look at how you view the mentally challenged, and once in a while,trg to make them smile.Make them feel human again ,although the battle towards perfection may never be achieved,painfully.
Dinah Regina Rubara
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