Changing perceptions of mental illness
The Honourable Haruna Bawa Mohamed is an ex-local government representative who now works as a farmer in Nigeria. He is very articulate and persuasive – perfect attributes for the change agent that he is.
Inside the large meeting room of a hotel, in the dusty market town of Otukpo, he is part of a group of advocates meeting about mental health. They include government health workers, people with psychosocial disabilities and carers.
With the support of CBM, Mr Mohamed and his fellow advocates are working to change how their communities understand mental illness. This is leading to greater awareness, participation and support for people living with mental illness and psychosocial disabilities in Nigeria.
One boy’s story
Women and men wearing vibrant outfits are sharing their experiences of changing the way their neighbours and communities think about mental illness.
Mr Mohamed volunteers to tell the story of his son, Sani Bawa, who is 12 years old:
“I was in Saudi Arabia in October 2013 when my wife called me to tell me my son was not well. I advised her to take him to the local clinic. They said that they could not help. So, I consulted with the herbalist who gave him traditional herbs at great cost: I spent more than 200,000 NGN, but this did not help him”.
“At this time, he was in school but the condition was worsening. He would fall down and the children would all run away from him – they thought that he was contagious – so he was sent out of school”, Mr Mohamed continues.
“But then in 2014 they introduced the mental health project in the village clinic and we were offered treatment. This brought about a huge change... my son has now fully recovered. He is back at school and is hugged and surrounded by kids – who understand now that this was an illness.”
Tell the world
Mr Mohamed looks determined: “I am working now to sensitise communities – I am going with my son to churches to tell this story so that they can understand...My son is very much okay and I want the entire world to know that this illness is curable!”
 More than AUD 1000 at the time