It is on record that about 50 percent of mental illness begins by age 14, and three-quarters begins by age 24. Major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder rarely appear out of the blues. Most often family, friends, teachers or individuals themselves begin to recognize small changes or get the feeling that something is not quite right about their reasoning, feelings or behaviour before the illness appears in its full-blown form. Learning about developing symptoms, or early warning signs, and taking action can help. Early intervention can help reduce the severity of an illness.
It may even be possible to delay or prevent a major mental illness altogether. So every stratum of persons are of course seen in a given society including the mentally deranged ones and Bayelsa State is not exceptional to that effect but in recent times, it has been observed that a lot the mentally unstable ones have flooded the streets of Yenagoa, the state capital, which has a population of less than two million people.
The state capital is, however, situated on a straight road from Igbogene Toll Gate to the water side of Swali Ultramodern Market with some stretches of inhabitants around the expressway, near Azikoro village, but in these few areas, people living on the streets, in the form of mad ones, are becoming overwhelming.
At the Tombia Round About, Ekeki Park, Onopa, under the flyover, in front of the Government House (Peace Park), the state secretariat and at almost every corner you must see one or two of such persons. But ordinarily, a ministry is supposed to be in charge of those people, which is the Ministry of Women, Children Affairs, Empowerment and Social Development; but it seems that the job is overwhelming because New Telegraph learnt that there is a department that is supposed to handle the situation but it seems not to be on top of its game.
Even though these people cannot be entirely cleared from the streets, there should be a bit of effort to rid the state of these people. Sometimes, you see some of these mentally imbalanced people stark naked with children passing and staring at them. Of course the Chief Judge of the state, Kate Abiri among others had once advocated for the establishment of rehabilitation and psychiatric homes in the state to take care of some of these people because, according to her, some of them can actually be rehabilitated with little effort put in place.
Speaking as a guest speaker during an international Social Workers’ Day which held in Yenagoa recently, Abiri, who was represented by Justice Doris Adokeme, said that the state needed remand homes to take care of the rising cases of rape, defilement, abandoned children and other related issues. The member representing Yenagoa Constituency II in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Koku Obiyai, hinted that the issue of the establishment of correctional homes was captured in the state’s 2021 budget, under the Ministry of Women, Children Affairs, Empowerment and Social Development.
She disclosed that Governor Douye Diri has directed the Commissioner for Health to locate a place for the building of a psychiatric hospital/home for the mentally deranged people in order to remove them from the streets of Yenagoa. Reacting to the recent development, David West, member of Civil Liberty Organisation, said: “I have asked the governor to do something about it because the psychiatric hospital they have there at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) is not big enough. The state needs its own psychiatric home because it is embarrassing seeing these mad people directly opposite the Government House.
“The governor, when he leaves the Government House, used to see those mad men naked. Sometimes they defecate there. I don’t know if his visitors may be enjoying it. They have turned the Peace Park to their own. “The FMC’s own is just a referral place. It is not even a psychiatric home per say. The state needs one to take care of all these mental patients.
If you go to the state secretariat, they are there, in almost all the bus tops, they are embarrassing people anyhow. “In the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, there is a department under there, called the Social Welfare Department. That is their responsibility to handle those issues is another thing.” Konrad Ekiyor in his own reaction said: “The government needs to step up its sanitation drive and make the city cleaner by raiding the city of mad people. It is not a good thing. It is a sign of decadence.
The government should try since it is sanitizing the town. They should catch them, drive them to Mbiama and drop them there. “These guys are brought in. they don’t walk in from anywhere. They are actually brought into the town and dropped. Around the NNPC, there is a particular guy that is always there. People have written but nothing has happened. The government is just feeling unconcerned.” Princess Elizabet Egbe, of Operation Rescue Mission, said: “It is not normal for us to have mad people all around our streets. You could also remember that sometime ago, we had a problem with these mad people that they attacked one another because of a mad lady resulting in the death of one of them. “Assuming that any other came in contact with them, that time they could be injured or killed also. Every sane society used to have a place where mad people are kept either in a psychiatric hospital and being treated. Some of these mad people that you are seeing, their cases are not even bad like that.
It is because of lack of care. That is why their situation degenerated and they became lunatics. “The Bayelsa State government should speed up building an asylum or a standard psychiatric hospital so that all these people will be evacuated from the streets to that place to be taken care of. Of course it is the government’s responsibility to take care of every human being.
So those mad people are ‘government’s property’ “It is not a matter of what their families are doing. At the same time I tell the youths of our dear state to desist from drug abuse because that is what is making them go natty. It has become very clear that most of these psychiatric cases are associated with drug abuse.
“Parents should also look at what their children are taking. “We discovered that even secondary school children are more abreast with the issue of drug use than most of us. When you see a child taking something like coke and lacasera, you think that they are taking sprite; there are other things that they put inside. Before you know it, they have gotten hooked on that drug and they become lunatic.” Also Moris Alagoa, an environmental rights activist and field worker, Friends of the Earth, said: “Relations of such victims and society in general owe it as a responsibility to ensure that they are confined to certain areas like where psychiatric doctors will take care of them and not to deny the public aesthetic space.
“It is a well-known fact that some of such folks are exported in the night by their people from other states or communities in Bayelsa and it is not nice for little children to be seeing some of these naked folks walking about in the environment. Government should take necessary action.” Also Victor Christopher, a public servant, asked: “What is the Ministry of Women’s Affairs doing? It is their job to curb such menace by rehabilitant or deporting those people to their states of origin. Late Melford Okilo the then governor of Old Rivers State deported mad people from Imo State back to the border between Imo and River states.” But Joy Preye said: “The families of these mad people should come and take them. Don’t they have families? Is it everything that the government will do for them? Just touch one of them and you will see somebody coming to claim ownership of the mad person.”
A move by this correspondent to get the views of the Commissioner in charge of the ministry, Faith Opuene, proved abortive as she was told by her aides that she would soon be going for an exco meeting. But an official from the ministry later told this correspondent on phone: “Sorry madam I can’t say anything about that for now because the commissioner sent a message across to you that very soon the ministry will invite you people to come and see what is happening. So I think I want to leave it at that. She said soon. Just exercise patience.”