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Opinions of Monday, 14 December 2009

Columnist: Asigri, D. Z.

Nurturing unhealthy emotions-personal views!!

Reflectively, on 2007-07-20 many readers’ attentions were drawn to my feature article entitled “Bam kum na-mi, te bam la-ada (Moel) Moshie language”. In English this literally means whilst others are ‘crying’, others are ‘laughing’! The idea was borne from Arkosah-Sarpong Kofi’s article of 2007-07-11-Quashigah, Culture and Prosperity. With the current tribal ‘bloody’ dispute in Bawku and her environs as well as in other parts of the North, what sense does it make in a ‘normal’ person ‘laughing’ at someone else’s misery-loss or injury? My heart goes out to everyone in Bawku and the surrounding areas, and indeed the disputed parts of Northern Ghana generally.

Although ‘common sense is not common’ in all individuals argues American Psychologist Jerome Brunner, let us collectively reflect deeply on the impact of the current instability and fighting in Bawku and her surrounding areas-its consequences on the mental health of some members of the community especially psycho-social problems. Although much has been written and talked about the effect of the fighting on the economic and educational developments on the North in general, the mental health of the people affected must not be taken kindly. For instance, psycho-social problems/illnesses have been shown to include, depression, schizophrenia, lack of sleep, nightmares, skin conditions, headaches, abdominal pains, phobias, and many more. Allah willing, I believe that solutions are in the making but in my view, the ‘dilemma of the unending tears’ in our eyes which seems to be an unabating phenomenon does illustrate impending unhealthy situations. The reality is that ‘post-traumatic stress syndrome’ is a well documented psychiatric issue in many health literatures, which cannot be ruled out from a war stricken community or country similar to what is being experienced in Bawku and other parts of the North right now! By ‘post-traumatic stress syndrome’, mean a collection of painful stimuli endured following dreadful events - seeing dead and maimed human bodies, for example. In fact on reflection or in other words on thinking back, one then revisits some fragments of these bad memories which are unconsciously brought to the fore. It is reminiscent to ‘critical incidents analysis’ where strong emotions are raised and interfere with the ability to function effectively in the future. For example, the recent media reports about the brutality and inhumane treatment meted on two innocent male civilians (stripped naked) under the orders of an army captain in Bawku did provide some horrible and frightful sight to many viewers worldwide. Some Human Rights Activists described it as shocking and unspeakable! Naturally concerned, Vice President, His Excellency John Daramani utterly condemned such acts of brutality to innocent citizens. I believe that the appropriate psychological interventions might provide some great relief to the victims, their families, and friends in general.

From my experience following a study visit to Rwanda some years ago, one recognises the implications of the tribal war that erupted between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes on the mental and physical wellbeing of most of the citizens which to me, was a complete nightmare that cannot be adequately contained in this article. I believe that we need to vigorously continue initiating some form of respite to counteract impending health hazards on the people, as already stated above whenever the ‘war’ is over! It is appreciated that good Samaritans within the community and the country in general have already instituted some form of caring approaches to help the people of Bawku and its entirety and they deserve multiple commendation from us all!

Culture affects ones emotional expression and influences the way individuals’ express, manage and talk about emotions. For example, emotions are essential for the growth of a child but admittedly, not all children learn to regulate their emotions, unfortunately! Emotional deprivation (as it can be caused by the present instability) in the growing child, has been shown to be a root cause of some form of mental illness in the affected person-and we need to guide as well as being aware of this danger!

Excuse me to state that the ‘walls’ which have been naturally constructed around Bawku and its environs for generations are porous, hence the creams and cries of babies, mothers, women, children, the youth, adults and the aged with their voices ethnically and culturally identifiable; are echoed following the loud sounds of AK7 rifles and pistols. For example, the community in Bawku and around are multi-cultural/tribal and multi-religiously woven hence the ‘yells’ and ‘screams’ are diverse in nature so, for example, a:

Bimoba (Moba’s) child’s screams can be heard-asking the community; ‘Nna na Nba bela’?, which in English means where are my mum and dad?

To the Kusasi child the yells which are indicative of a cry for help from the community is; ‘Nma ne Nsaam be ya-ani’?, which means in English where are my mum and dad?

To the Mamprusi child, the cry for help from the community is; ’Yeni ka Nba ne Nma benni’? meaning where is my dad and mum?

To the Hausa child; ‘Ina Nma da Baba na’?, in English this means, where are my mum and dad? There is a need to appreciate that the ‘Hausa’ language spoken in Ghana does have some similarities to that spoken in Northern Nigeria-Sokoto where the language originated.

To the Moshie child, the cry for help is; ‘Msaam lem ma beah’? Which means where my dad and mum are? Moel is primarily spoken in Burikina Faso hence there are similarities in the style uttered - bearing in mind that the situation the child is in - ‘stressed ridden’!

To the Busanga (Bisa) child, the cry for help from the community is; ‘Enaa kane Ezeke mbee’? - Where are my mum and dad? In general, the yells and cries as can be heard are from a person who, understandably is within the confines of the rules of a ‘curfew’ and therefore stressed-up!

Excuse me to state categorically that mental health problems can be understood as abnormalities of emotions, behaviour, or social relationships of prolonged nature which causes suffering or poor growth in children or distress or disturbance in the family or community. These significant examples shown above should not be overlooked because of its importance in understanding the emotional world of our children and some adults who have been grossly traumatised as a result of the current turbulence in Bawku and other areas in the North. It may sometimes seem as if our emotions are more of a hindrance than a help. They can cloud our judgement and our performance. To the Samaritans currently immersed in the emotional world of our people within the conflict zones, may I offer a little bit of advice that, there is a need to be truly caring and effective, to find some sort of balance between being neither ‘overemotional’ nor blasé.

May Allah Bless Us All-Amen!

By: Asigri, D. Z.(EdD)

Senior Lecturer

Middlesex University