Mental health issues tend to take a huge toll on the heath and wealth of Ghanaians and among some of the mental health issues affecting the country are depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety conditions, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and suicide.
A study in 2009 showed that 41 per cent of Ghanaians had psychological distress and the figure, coupled with its related spin-offs, translated into productivity loss amounting to seven per cent of the national GDP.
Speaking on the Springboard, Your Virtual University, a radio programme on Joy FM last Sunday, Corporate Executive, Mr Kwabena Dapaah Afriyie, shared his experiences on how a physical challenge led to a mental health issue and how it changed his life.
Narrating how it started, he said:“In April 2012, it was a Sunday morning and I went out to meet some friends and we sat at our usual drinking spot and on my way back home I heard the score of a soccer match between two Ghanaian clubs; that Asante Kotoko had beaten
Hearts Of Oak by two goals to one. I got home, ate supper and went to bed.
“I, however, started feeling an awkward thing moving in my body and I couldn’t walk well and I lost focus. I rushed out of the room and started screaming so I was rushed to the hospital.”
“When I got well, I heard the doctor telling the nurses that I could have died and that thought of me dying stuck with me and I started having panic attacks.”
He said he started taking normal drugs until he went to another health facility where they started giving him anxiety drugs.
“In 2014, I was in my office and a lady came to me that she wanted to come and do catering services in my office.
When she came I was experiencing some unpleasant feeling and I told her my condition but she started laughing at me.”
“She came back a week later and I was still not feeling fine and she told me she had experienced some before and that was why she was laughing at me so she recommended one doctor to me.
I booked an appointment with the doctor,” he stated.
Effects of anxiety
Commenting on how that feeling affected him, he said he was easily angered, felt jittery, had palpitations and was not sleeping well.
He said it also affected how he related to his colleagues at work.
“I was always happy and easy going but I suddenly became the quiet type. My wife didn’t understand me from the start until we went to meet the doctor together for him to explain to her.
I put a lot of stress on her within the period,” he stated.
Explaining what could be happening to Mr Afriyie, Clinical Psychologist, Professor Angela Ofori-Atta, who was also a guest on the show, said what he was going through sounded like a panic disorder.
“If you went to any of our big psychiatric hospitals, you wouldn’t find lots of people reporting anxiety disorders and there are different kinds.
The one he talks about sounds like a panic disorder and it’s all about your body misbehaving.”
She said the most significant and common symptom associated with panic disorders was the fear of impending doom, and the fear that something terrible was going to happen.
“When your body starts misbehaving, you may think you are going to have a heart attack. He already had a first panic which was what landed him in the hospital, and for the doctor to say that he could have died reinforced that fear of impending doom.”
“I’ve had a patient who was much older and had a heart attack and started to have panic attacks. He felt he was having constant heart attacks but that was ruled out.”
“Sometimes when you have had the first attack, other things could now trigger panics. If you had the attack when you were in a ‘trotro’, anytime you go into a ‘trotro’, you might be afraid,” she pointed out.
Signs of distress
When asked what some of the signs of distress were, she said, “if your body started to have signs of fear then that is a sign that things are not well.
“If you are not sleeping properly or sleeping too much, if you are not eating properly or eating too much, if you begin to have thoughts that keep recurring and you are not able to stop, that should be signs of distress.”
“If you begin to hear voices nobody hears or see things nobody sees, that is a more serious sign of mental illness.”
“If our relationships begin to suffer or we find out that we can’t control our desire for substances, then you know that you are into an addiction,” she explained.