My grandfather’s house stands tall in Oke-Labo, Ibadan, after all it was the house of Chief Samuel Tayo Bakare, the Mogaji of Sodun, the Ba’ale of Olorunda, Council Chairman and Grade C judge in his days. The house faces the main road that runs from Beere to Orita Aperin and shields many things from the commuters on that road. One of the things it shielded was a house behind it where mad men and women were brought for treatment, a mad house of some sort.

In the years that I lived in my grandfather’s house, my room was at the back and opening my wooden windows gave me unobstructed view of all the happenstance in the vicinity, especially the mad house. I was not particularly interested in the mad house but I had to leave my window open for most of the days and only keep them closed at night, despite the heat, to save my blood from being the only menu on the feast of the mosquitoes.

In those days, the house was the treatment centre for one middle-aged man that we came to know as Muda. How and when he was brought there, I can’t recollect. The “Doctor-in-charge” was one Alfa, who was mostly seen going around with a cane in hand, wearing a dull coloured Jalabiya, which started its earthly journey as a white piece of cloth.

The agonising cry of Muda was a constant feature that cuts through and above all other noise in the neighbourhood, and trust me there was a high level of noise pollution in those days. Yet, Muda’s could be heard well above all others, There were not that many days that I didn’t hear his cry. It was a given that once you see Alfa sauntering around in the premises, Muda’s cry would follow. As a child, I frequently used that relationship to understand the abstract that I was being taught in Economics on c”ause and effect.”

Of course there were other inmates receiving unorthodox treatment for madness from the Alfa. There were a couple of women too and I can recall an event where one of them gave birth leading to questions in the gossip community as to who did the implantation works and how. However, Muda stood out from all the inmates. For most days,Muda sat idly in front of the house, chained. On some occasions, where he was allowed to wander around, probably under the belief that his sickness was being cured, he did so with an iron rod linking two iron bracelets that were firmly locked to his legs. It was a pathetic sight to look at Muda as he walked, aimlessly for most part, around the neighbourhood. The sadness in his looks was perturbing but, as kids, we had the impression that the cure for madness was by caning. I could almost say this was evidence based, in that we saw the caning though we couldn’t ascertain that any was cured. It became written in our subconscious through what we saw, what we heard and the songs we sang. One of the song goes like this:

Ki l’ògùn wèrè
Ẹgba ni.

Years went by and I moved on from our house but Muda never moved on, he continued receiving the treatment at the house, though I can’t tell what eventually became of Muda. I forgot about him and in the years thereafter when I had made visits to our house, all I noticed was that the mad house had fallen into ruins following the death of the Alfa. Not a soul is there any longer.

Then my wife became a mental health nurse. She comes home at the end of each working period to give me snippets of the cases that she handled and educates me on the prevalence of mental health challenges in Australia. Suddenly, everywhere I looked, I started becoming conscious of the challenges as well. Folks of different ages and background are having to cope with different levels of this illness. It is prevalent in the society as just any other health challenge like hypertension is.

Earlier this year, I attended an Health Consumer workshop in the beautiful city of Nedlands. Gathered in the big hall were different folks from the public whose intent was to listen to representatives of the Graylands Hospital Management team talk about their plans for the future and provide responses to these plans.

Seated next to me in the high ceiling hall within this sprawling mental institution complex was a middle-aged man, probably nearing 60. He introduced himself and added that he is a mental health patient and has come to ensure that the hospital plans were broad enough to address the salient needs of other patients like him. I introduced myself as a Community Advisory Committee member and my interest is to ensure that my community’s voice was also heard.

There, next to me, was a Muda. Everything about this Muda was normal, normal just like me. He took active part in the workshop and did everything everyone else did. I thought about it, why was this Grayland’s Muda different from the Oke-Labo Muda?

Less than 2 months later, a high flying ex-colleague of mine found his “mojo” and declared on Facebook that he was and had been battling mental illness all his life, I was taken aback. I thought I knew him well, he was primus inter pares, how could he have been a Muda? For years he had kept silent about it and has only recently become very vocal probably because of concerns about how he probably would have been castigated at work. He wrote that his episode developed from just an incident at work that he had insufficient ability to cope with. Despite this challenge, he still went ahead to have a very successful career lasting 26 years because he had the needed medical care.

It was in his response that we see why there are differences in Muda outcomes for different individuals. Imagine if he had ended up in Oke-Labo under Alfa? He could have ended up living his life in tattered clothes with deep sunken eyes begging for help. This is the image of Muda that I have. One that hunts me these days, thinking I could have raised a voice had I known what I know now.

The point here is a need for us all to embrace our mental wellness. And, if out of ill-luck, we end up being psychotic, we need to speak out and realise that help abounds. Of course, I am not suggesting the kind of help from Oke-Labo. Though each case is different but there has been significant developments in this sphere of healthcare that every case can be managed in a way that each person will live life to the fullest.