Chief Harun – a father who moves from shame to mental health advocate

Stories | April 26, 2022

Chief Harun Mohammed Bawa from Benue State, Nigeria, became the primary carer for his son, Sani, after his son experienced a seizure at age 12. At the time, Chief Harun was an elected local government councillor representing his community. He was ashamed of his son’s disability.

“I withdrew my son from school because I found it shameful that the son of a well-known community leader was collapsing in public,” admits Chief Harun.

The family spent a lot of money trying to help Sani, but there was no improvement. Then, finally, finding a cure began to take its toll and carer fatigue gradually set in.

Comprehensive Community Mental Health Program support

Then Chief Harun learned that the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Program supported the nearby Primary Health Centre with access to support, counselling and affordable medications. Chief Harun was initially sceptical.

“I had my doubts… because I’d been to a lot of places in search of solution where I was charged huge sums of money and did not get any positive results; how can medication as cheap as 15c {N5} per tablet help my son’s condition?”

His wife was keen to take Sani to the clinic. The healthcare provider reassured them, sharing positive stories of others who had visited the clinic and accessed medications. Chief Harun was amazed at the low cost of the medication and the support offered.

After experiencing a minimum of three seizures every day for years, Sani’s seizures suddenly stopped. One month later, he returned to school. Chief Harun and his son became members of a Self-Help Group that linked them with others and helped with small savings initiatives.

Outcome

“My son now has his own goats that he is rearing. This has supported us to keep up his medication, pay his school fees and attend to numerous of his basic needs”. 

Chief Harun’s experience as a carer for his son was life-changing. Before the arrival of services and support, it was generally believed that epilepsy was contagious. As a result, people experiencing seizures were often isolated from other community members. Chief Harun now visits churches to raise awareness of medical treatment available for some mental health conditions and the services available in his community.

Chief Harun no longer feels any shame. He is now a trained mental health community advocate.  

“This has gained me a lot of respect and more recognition within and outside my community, local government, and Benue state as a whole.”

The Comprehensive Community Mental Health Program for Benue State is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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