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The mad man with a sugarcane

By Anny Osabutey

I spent this weekend at Elmina in the Central Region, filming for a project that involves the work of fishermen dotted across the coastal areas in this country.

While taking snapshots of the imposing castle in the town, this mentally disturbed man, harmless, friendly and smiley with a sugarcane in hand, posed for his picture to be taken.He started dancing and at every turn when voices around him appeared to be fizzling, he'd raise a tune himself and call for more shots.

We did three different shots before saying goodbye to him. Later when I was back and reflecting on the encounter, the whole image of our failed mental institution started playing in my head; how much will it cost for us, as a society, to take mental related illness serious in this country before folks get to the tipping point and lose it, all?

I remember a conversation I had with former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a living advocate of mental health, at the Carter Centre in Atlanta, USA, who said prioritizing mental health during the presidency of her husband, Jimmy, was one of the most fulfilling and landmark achievements of her earthly life.

Then as a working mother, she was moved by the tears of a single parent she met at a train station whose son was locked up in the room for fear of being stigmatized.

According to her, she went home and the very day the husband said he was going to give the presidency a shot, made him vow to include mental health-related issues as part of his major policies.

Jimmy won the elections and she got her wish fulfilled. More than thirty years down the road, that single encounter with that woman has impacted most American societies and persons with mental health are receiving care, though there is a long road to cover.

I do have a feeling the issues around mental health are solvable but the commitment to do so, is the issue. I hope and pray that someday somehow, this gentleman and many others in his situations in our country will receive the very help they need, so they don't have to reach this crisis point. #mentalhealth #