In 2009 during his stay in Tema, Mr John A. Atinga suddenly realised that he was hearing some strange voices but could not interpret what the voices were saying to him. He initially took it very lightly but later realised his situation was getting worse.
According to Mr Atinga, he had sleepless nights and nightmares which made him very uncomfortable. He later decided to travel back home for treatment. He said upon his return to his home at Goore, near Binaba in the Bawku West District, he could still hear the same voices as before.
All this while, Mr Atinga's family had consulted a traditional healer to treat him but the situation did not change.
According to him, the traditional healer at Goore forced him to take different types of concoctions which were extremely difficult to ingest.
“I was also sent to a prayer camp in the Boya community (also in the Bawku West District) but that didn’t improve my condition,” Mr Atinga further lamented.
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“By 2013, I started seeing some imaginary images which I couldn’t describe. Then I started responding to the voices I was hearing. Some of the voices were urging me to move around the community while others were threatening to kill me," he pathetically described his situation.
He observed that his family members were afraid he could harm them or travel to a location where they would not be able to trace his whereabouts, and so they decided to force his foot into the hole of a big log to restrain him while they continued with their traditional treatment. According to Mr Atinga, his family sold two cattle to pay the traditional healer for his treatment.
On other expenditures incurred, he said: “I remember this traditional healer who collected some goats, fowls and foodstuffs as payment for my treatment but I know there could be a lot more he might have taken from my family members."
He stated that his family members were emotionally disturbed because they thought they had exhausted their means of getting him back to his normal senses. They were also sad because they perceived that they would not get the kind of support they were getting from him while he was working in Tema.
Mr Atinga's brother, Peter, also confirmed that the family members didn’t make up their minds to take him to the hospital for treatment because, as he put it, “we believed his condition was spiritual and didn’t demand any orthodox medication”.
In March 2015, Mr Atinga was diagnosed of schizophrenia after Mr Augustine Abambire, a Community Mental Health Officer (CMHO) in the Binaba Sub-District Health Centre in the Bawku West District, visited him. Goore, where Mr Atinga hails from, happens to fall within the operational area of Mr Abambire.
According to Mr Atinga, it was during the early stages of 2015 that his brother (Peter) discussed his situation with one of his friends, Jerry Abenem, from Binaba who then linked him up with Mr Abambire.
Mr Abambire put Mr Atinga on medication and later informed Mr Bernard Azuure, the Project Officer of Basic Needs Ghana, a non-governmental organisation in the Upper East Region.
Not long after that, the project officer immediately paid Mr Atinga a visit and held several discussions with his family to facilitate his release from the shackles. Initially, the patient’s (Mr Atinga's) family resisted because they thought he (Mr Atinga) would harm them if he was released, but upon assurances from both the CMHO and Mr Azuure, they finally agreed and he was released on March 15, 2015. Mr Atinga has since been getting treatment, with medication sometimes procured by Basic Needs and administered by Mr Abambire.
John's condition is now stable because he has started taking the medication. He says he is now able to cultivate his own farm and also assists his brother to do his farm work. He said, “My family members treat me very well as their own and this is very encouraging.
“The community members also treat and interact with me very well and same applies to my friends. My very good friend, Jerry Abenim, visits me regularly to chat with me.
"My family, community members and friends are very happy about my current condition and one of my brothers has even asked me to contact Basic Needs to come to the aid of his wife who is also suffering from mental illness,” he noted with a broad smile.
His brother, Peter Atinga, in an interview also stated that, “When I go to the farm or travel to a distant place to carry out an activity, I’m no more worried because I know John will manage the house very well till I return. He takes very good care of the children and ensures that the animals are well secured in their pen before darkness falls.”
John’s relationship with his community members has so far been very good. According to him, he takes active part in all community decision-making processes. He is now the secretary of his community Water Management Committee, a role he has played satisfactorily since his condition became stable.