There is an Akan proverb that goes like, “etua wo yɔnko ho a wose etua dua mu” which literally means, “if the pinch is in another person’s skin, you consider it as a pinch in a tree”. That was exactly how I treated the issue of stigmatization. The issue of stigmatization has been quite sufficiently echoed in the corners of the world; at least as far as my ears could reach.
I treated it with less seriousness because the campaign against stigmatization was mostly about “stigmatization against HIV/AIDS”. In my infantile thoughts, of course I was quite young, I thought none of my actions could make me acquire HIV/AIDS. However, there was a complete turn of events where I had to come face to face with stigmatization. Even though I wasn’t the direct sufferer, the impact has been severe that its bother has lived with me over the years. Now, let me tell you about my indirect encounter with stigmatization and I believe you will feel the need to develop caution for stigmatization.
From June to July, 2015, I had the privilege to have my practicum at the Accra Psychiatry Hospital. I encountered a relapsed patient. In my routine mental state examination, I asked her; you were doing so well not long ago and you were discharged, but here you are, seated in front of me. Could there be anything at home that do not support your wellbeing?” And this was what she told me, “I think I don’t feel belonged in my family anymore.
When they are having a family discussion and I put forward my contribution, my contribution will be quickly shot down on the basis that I am insane, and how best my contribution could be. The worse of it is; they could leave one by one to their rooms and leave me seated alone when I join their gathering. This could really infuriate me. When I protest out of my indignation, they will bring me to the hospital that I’ve gone mad again.”
Another patient recounted his ordeal as, “I am a fast food operator; I used to have quite a number of customers. After I had the mental health condition, my competitors tried to steal my few bona fide customers whose tongues are stuck to the taste of my sauce by telling them, “It’s a mad person’s food”. This infuriated me a lot; and you see, I have well-built muscles. When I charge at them I will be brought back here that I’ve gone mad again.”
Undoubtedly, these two accounts have stroke your emotional chords, but take it easy on yourself because most of us stigmatize unconsciously and out of ignorance.
There are several unconscious behaviours that severely affect the emotions and lives of other people. I talked about displacement in my previous article as the unconscious demon that has the potency to affect one’s emotions, so is stigmatization. According to the popular biblical jargon, “Be Your Brother’s Keeper. Let’s be our brother’s keeper by being conscious of our attitudes towards them.
Do not be like Cain who couldn’t keep his brother.