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Madness: Where Does It Come From? 

By Alfred A. Njini*

The rampant evidence of the increasing number of mad people on the streets of our towns is becoming alarming. One can hardly walk a distance of two kilometres without encountering one of such people.

Before getting deep into the core of the issue, let’s pause to meditate on the following questions; where do mad people come from? What are the causes of their madness? Do these people who roam the streets everyday have families or relations? Can anything be done about their situation?

Mental diseases commonly called madness can be defined through the following points. The deranged or insane person acting in disorder or disarrangement which disturbs the conditions, actions, functions or unbalances the reasoning faculty. Those subject to an overpowering emotion excited intensely or beyond self control.

The rabid, hence uncontrollable actions proceeding from or indicating a disordered mind. According to Patricia Madjoukouo, a specialist in mental health at the Jamot Hospital Yaounde, there are several factors that contribute to the diseases. "There is no major cause of mental disease, but there are a lot of contributing factors that gradually lead to mental disease or mental up-set", she said.

"There are quite a good number of intoxicating drugs that gradually render a lot of people insane" she added. These include Marijuana, Cannabis and Heroine. Research has also shown that through some family genes, so many kinds of diseases can be passed on from parents to children, even from generation to generation. Diseases like HIV aids, brain tumor, diabetics, epilepsy and cerebral malaria have also been cited as contributing factors to insanity.

Nevertheless, some religious leaders have stated that some of the mentally deranged people are under demonic spells and manipulations from evil spirits. Such persons, they say, have been divinised or enchanted upon by some human enemies highly involved in spiritism and occultism. Special deliverance church programmes are now common, especially within Pentecostal churches, to rescue such cases from the grip of wild demons. Outstanding testimonies have been gotten by so many desperate families.

Just like good news rejoices the heart of the hearer or listeners, bad news also saddens some hearts and can often lead to mental failures and off-set with some people. But Madjoukouo pointed out that "frustration that comes from repeated failure, stress and oppression drives some human minds into insanity". Still, indiscipline in learning and too much work without enough rest can affect the nerves negatively until some minds begin to go off.

Separation from family ties can be a real problem to some persons. If they stay away for too long from close relatives, they begin to loose control of themselves and can eventually go off. So many young people are getting addicted to alcohol and strong drinks despite health campaigns that this can lead to mental troubles. Medical experts warn that the eruption of post cure or the repeated failure of complete treatment of a particular illness can push one’s immune system to mental frustration.

Family problems such as divorce, brutality, fighting, stubborn and delinquent children can end up in real mental crisis. But sociologists have observed that society is hardly aware of the danger these situations pose. In medical terms, some "personalities" are more likely to develop mental diseases than others. Personality here is defined as the character make-up identity, temper, traits, temperaments, psyche, dispositions that qualify an individual.

To Madjoukouo, "There is paranoid personality which causes people to be too suspicious, worried, nervous, fearful and apprehensive." She adds that such people are always disturbed and unstable, complaining almost about everybody and everything which traps them with mental disease." There is the hysteria personality referring to people who exercise a lot of agitation, delirium, unreasonable panic even when there is no cause for alarm. Such people easily scream aloud, faint and always wanting their way or else…

There are schizoid personalities who turn to manifest very strange and bizarre acts. Such persons are introverts who easily mystify things. There is also dependent personality which is reliant, vulnerable, helpless, powerless, weak and defenseless. Such persons quickly lean only on others for decisions.

Cameroon appears to be a fertile ground for mental patients, given the increasing number of full blown mad men and women in the streets of the country’s main cities. But rather than cater for them in psychiatric facilities, government authorities consider them as nuisance that should be dealt with as garbage.

A few months ago, the Yaounde city council boss announced a campaign to clean the city. Police officers were ordered to swoop on mental patients and beggars. The latter were bundled into trucks and dumped in the premises of the Jamot Hospital. He further warned that if they were caught again on the streets, they would be taken 100 km out of Yaounde and abandoned.

Human rights groups and the general public in and out of the country have been shocked by such cruelty. The country boasts of only about five psychiatrists and medical facilities are grossly inadequate. Traditional doctors are moving in to fill the gap but their cruel methods like chaining patients to trees and flogging them, raise questions as to their efficiency. Apparently, it might be a long time before proper action is taken to carter for mental patients.

*(ASMAC Journalism Student on Internship)

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