Simply “Mad” or “Mentally ill”? (Episode 2)

In the field of mental health, diagnosis of mental illness is always made following guidelines. These guidelines were never made arbitrarily but through a painstaking process of research and evidence across diverse populations. There are some clinically significant forms of behavior that are peculiar to specific cultures. Such culture-bound syndromes in mental health are also described from evidence.

There are lots of people who roam the streets not really as a result of mental illness, but due to a breakdown of the support system that should have provided the care that would have restored them to their optimal level of functioning.

Labeling someone as being mad is more of a social connotation for unacceptable behavior or extraordinary behavior, than a clinical diagnosis of mental illness. There are lots of people who roam the streets not really as a result of mental illness, but due to a breakdown of the support system that should have provided the care that would have restored them to their optimal level of functioning. Some persons you label as being “mad” in some context, might be better, smarter, or more efficient than you in another context.

The case of Seese, the fisherman of Masiwawu (continued from last week )

The news reporter continued towards the riverside on his motorbike. He couldn’t help but notice the gradual change in vegetation as he journeyed closer to the river. The natural canopy formed by the greenery from the trees became thicker as many more trees seemed to spring up closely aligned by the roadside.

After about 5 minutes of riding, he saw the river ahead of him, with two dugout canoes anchored to the stump of a cut-down tree by the riverside. As he slowed down his bike, he saw a donkey just by the roadside. Beside the donkey was a fireplace with fresh fish, roasting invitingly on a metal grill. The aroma from the fish could not be ignored!

Next to the fire sat a young man, sipping deliberately from a gourd. He held the gourd with his left hand and held the midsection of a piece of fish in his right hand chewing slowly as he gazed towards the river.
“Good afternoon Sir,” the reporter said as he switched off his motorbike. The man looked at him, “Peace be unto you, my brother” he said. “Indeed, you must be far away from home”, Seese added. “Why do you say that Sir”?

“This is the first motorcycle I will be seeing by the riverside of Masiwawu for the past two years.” The reporter quickly scanned the area. He noticed about 7 teenagers (boys) playing on the sand by the riverside. He observed that there was no other person around hence he concluded that this could be the person he was looking for. “You must be Mr. Seese”. He said. “Who wants to know?” replied Seese, flicking the bare bone of the fish into the embers.
“My name is Segu, a reporter from BBC pidgin service, Nigeria. A kind lady showed me the way here from the market”. He quickly brought out his identity card from his backpack, trying to hand it over to Seese. He was surprised when Seese suddenly dropped his gourd on the floor, abruptly gesturing at him with both hands to stay back. He stood up frantically and paced quickly further into the forest, disappearing behind a tree. The reporter stood transfixed looking puzzled by the sudden change in countenance. A lot of things went through his mind within a few seconds; should he “Run” or “Stay”? He also scanned around looking for a potential weapon he could quickly grab to defend himself. His eyes fixed on a smoldering piece of wood by the fireplace. His mind quickly settled for this. So, he stepped closer to the fireplace. As soon as he got close to the fireplace, he heard the rustling of footsteps from the spot through where Seese disappeared and saw him emerging with his face covered with a plastic transparent face shield, covering a brand new N95 face mask. In his hand was a small tube, a hand sanitizer. The reporter burst into laughter at his own unnecessary apprehension. He did a spontaneous mental reset; telling himself to calm down. He quickly reached into his backpack, brought out his face mask, knotting the upper straps behind his head; across both ears. His own mask was given to him by his media outfit; hence it had the BBC logo printed across it.

The fisherman looked at him and shook his head. He appeared to disagree with something that had to do with the reporter’s face mask. “I thought people from the city should be more informed about the types and correct use of face masks”, “Your manner of face mask use is potentially injurious to your health and that of others. If you feel like using a face mask, use the correct type and use it correctly”. Mr. Seese said, with a firm clear voice.  The reporter was amazed by what he heard. He then listened to a 10-minute lecture on COVID-19 prevention modalities. The fisherman even mentioned vaccines!

The reporter wondered:

  1. Is this man really “mad”?
  2. How could such a recluse be this knowledgeable?

What are your own thoughts about Mr. Seese’s mental state
Feel free to share your comments and thoughts.
Stay safe and sane; help others do the same.

Note: This story is entirely “fictional”.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination for education and information about mental health issues. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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Ola Ibigbami

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4 Responses

  1. I can see that Seese the great fisherman was not mentally sick nor mad, it was the inability of the people around him who could not identify the challenges he was passing through that made him looked like one. With the encounter with the BBC reporter, it is obvious that Seese was of sound mind.

    • Many thanks, Sir! I agree with you that he looks fairly normal thus far. I believe we need more information from the interaction to make a definite conclusion.

  2. From all indications and acceptable parameters, tagging Seese as mad or having mental health problems could be very difficult.
    Sure he is struggling with some psychological and emotional issues. I’m Segu the BBC reporter will be more effectively educated before he leave Masiwawu community.

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