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Opinions of Sunday, 8 November 2015

Columnist: Attah-Brako, Kwabena

Everyone Is Talking – How Mad Men Are Bred In Ghana

As I cut through the back of my house, I counted 5 mad persons – 3 women and 2 men. What fascinated me was that 2 of the women are in their fifties. A visit to the streets of Kasoa is heart racking – everywhere one turns he is greeted by mad people. They number up to 15 just by the Kasoa traffic light. This number is likely to massage upwards if we turn to the corners of Kasoa community. They call you to hand them some money when you pass by them and make their beds on the pavement in the night. They are worst hit when the weather turns violent and the rain becomes ravenous. They have nowhere to turn to than to run to a close by shelter to make do. There’s this woman who talks to herself all day, but keeps quite to ask for a coin when you pass by her. “Brother give me some coins to buy food,” she would call out, but as soon as you go past her, she zooms into her talking disposition.
Some months past, I witnessed a Metro Mass Transit bus smashed the head of a mad man at the McCarthy Hill Junction. Nobody could give vivid account of what happened and how did the mad man found himself under the right back tyre of the bus. Could it be that he was asleep on the side of the road? Or that he ran to hide behind the bus when it pulled off to disembark some passengers? I couldn’t be right about this.
It appears our society is going nut. The turnout of mad men and women in our neighborhood and on our streets points to the presence of deep cracks in the family system of our society. The family – one of the key social institutions in the society is breaking down--fast. The neglect of relatives who have been assumed to be mad is a major contribution of the madness in Ghana today. Our family system no longer performs its duties; companionship, support, and love-sharing. It has traded its key functions and place in the society for the busyness of the modern industrial society characterized by self-centeredness, individual achievement, privacy, crave for properties, and flamboyant lifestyles. The crave for everything flamboyant has pushed many people far away from their loved ones exposing them to risks that come with it. They grow loner surrounded by all the luxuries their hard work has bought them. Suddenly they crave for companionship which is no longer available to them. They need someone to talk to and to share their stories with. Someone to listen to their idiocies. There’s no one near ear shot. Their loneliness become unbearable. Their brain then give way to little madness. They begin to talk to themselves. In drama this is called soliloquy. However, these people are soliloquizing madness.
There’s also the issue of institutional neglect on the part of the Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service – who should know and do better. Why have we unleashed madness on ourselves and the society? Who’s taking the shot for the mad persons on the streets? The Social Welfare Department need to liaise with the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service to place these persons in their right homes. The fact is, no family is ready to take responsibility for a mad relative or something like that. Nobody. The joy of some families would be to see these mad relatives out of the house unto the streets where they could fend for themselves till death visits.
It is expected that by now significant research work would be produced on why our society is recording so many mad persons at a rapid rate. Everyone would be quick to point to some factors responsible for this current trend, however, they are not backed by scientific research and analysis. The psychiatric hospitals in Ghana need to be adequately resourced to be able to carry out some of the cleanups of our streets. The Ministry of Health should see as a priority the need to open more of such facilities in the regions, municipalities, and districts of the country. We need to invest in the mental health needs of our people. Madness has proven a function of social problems—broken marriage, unemployment, poverty, absence of family support system, and loneliness.
We need to be serious if we want to save lives. We need to build the system to contain these issues. We need homes or shelter for the elderly. We cannot leave them behind as though they are not needed in the society. Sometimes what they need is someone to listen and laugh to their follies – and they have plenty of it. We may think they are going mad, but that is how they sometimes behave—they are mad.
We need to encourage meaningful talk. Take responsibility before a relative or friend goes mad. Our society needs everyone mentally sound and efficient for the overall development of the country. Let’s sustain sanity by showing love, concern to someone.