Ghana ha deɛ yɛnni time for saa nneɛma no o. Deɛn ne depression ne saa deɛ ɛkekakeka ho no?? Aborɔfo na wɔnnom wɔ saa adaagyeɛ for things like that o. Nti gyae gyimie no koraa na pɛ nsuo bi nom. Kɔm de wo a wose depression!

The first time I had a lengthy conversation with Becky, we talked about choral music. We were in Secondary School, form three. She’d raise the song in her powerful soprano, and I’d back her with my alto. That day, we had the whole class silent and listening, till one of the house mistresses came in and well, yes, we were ‘disturbing’, so she punished us. The punishment was to present ourselves to the school choir director and sign up, so we did. We had fun rehearsing, and anytime I hear the anthem ‘How Excellent’ or the hymn ‘Fight the Good Fight,’ I remember Becky. That was the beginning of our funny friendship. We never talked much about anything else but music, and we did a lot of singing together. I can hear her voice now ringing out; “Angels are singing – you are worthy O Lord…”

The few times Becky and I talked about other things, it was about her brother, and mother. She loved them to bits, I could tell. Other times, it was about her dreams and her fear of them not being realized. I remember telling her we were going to do just fine. She was a literature and Ghanaian language student just like me, so we used to talk about that a few times too – lol, how the French and Elective Mathematics students had little respect for us. But most of all, we’d sing, and sing, and sing!

After Secondary School, when we entered University, I hardly talked with her; phone calls a couple of times a month, and short conversations. There were however a lot of times I’d call at a bad time, she’d tell me she was in no mood to talk, or wouldn’t sound at all pleased to hear me. I gave her the space I thought she needed. Very soon, first year in Uni passed. It was in my second year, first semester that communication with Becky ground to a halt, save a few text messages to ask how the other was faring. A mutual friend of ours was my coursemate as well and so we used to hangout. This mutual friend was on facebook and Becky was on facebook too, so sometimes, she’d show me Becky’s statuses and posts. It was clear that all was not well with her. Towards the end of that semester, I got notice that Becky was in hospital…dying. It was a Friday night. She had ingested poison. Attempted Suicide.

Sunday Dawn, Becky died. Apparently she had experienced multiple organ failure because of the poisonous substance she took in, after which she took an overdose of pain medication too. Apparently, her last words were

“I don’t want to die anymore.”

From Friday, when the news got to me, I had my phone stitched to my palm, living by updates, praying for life! So when Irene called me Sunday morning, I knew it was going to be either “she’s going to make it” or “she didn’t make it.” Sunday dawn, about a day and half after she ingested rat poison and an overdose of pain meds, Becky died and I couldn’t cry. Too much was going on in my head. Too much gossip, too many rumours were flying around, I felt so many things at once. The most dominant was anger. I was angry people had forgotten to mourn. They were shaking their heads and folding their arms tight over their bosoms, their body language communicating loud ‘God forbids.’

“How can you kill yourself because a boy?!” was on everyone’s lips. Even I had questions. Really? Was that the only reason? Is that even the reason? I had questions. The following weekend, Becky, with her charming voice, petite frame, jet black mini-afro, light skin, a slight permanent hunch of her shoulders, beautiful smile, and her dreams and plans and potential, was buried. She was gone.

I am telling this story I have never told before, which has broken me down; the tears I have shed as I type now have made me aware I hadn’t really mourned her since, because sometimes, we need to hear them, feel them close to home, to better appreciate them. I am telling this story because we do not grow up being made aware of the various degrees of mental disorders, especially the ones that are not full blown mania. We do not know what we can do as loved ones of people who need us to help them deal with mental disorders. We seem to never know something is not right, or things are as bad, till like Becky, our loved ones leave us at their own hands. Even then, we do not give it the attention needed. We treat the person who committed suicide as some abominable thing that must be discarded fast. Becky was buried the weekend right after the weekend she died. “It has to be done fast and forgotten” was the reason everyone I asked gave. We do not want to address it, admit it, that it happened, and make moves to make sure it doesn’t happen to another loved one. We pretend it does not exist. But it does! IT DOES!

In September this year, it was reported that about 1500 suicide cases are recorded annually, according to the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Authority. These are figures of just the cases that were recorded. I believe there are numbers that were not.  In my opinion, our perspectives on mental health is very limiting and skewed. We either think, as the little convo snippet I started this post with says, that is a foreign thing, or that it doesn’t exist at all. You are either walking the streets naked or in a facility, or you should be fine. But mental health encompasses so much that we need to be aware of. Depression is just one little piece of it. This is the reason why we have come together; young people who have not only experienced different degrees of bad mental health but have lost loved ones as a result of poor mental health. Becky may have made the decision to end her life after her break up, but that was not the sole reason. What was the state of her mind? That made her either see the gentleman as her entire world, or what was it that made her feel as if the very last thing that made sense in her life had also been taken away so there was no point to live. Our very society, so many things her young mind had to handle? Did she have an outlet, to vent, express herself…a haven where she could go to, where support was, a shoulder to cry on, maybe someone simply taking the state of her mind seriously, and simply saying, “yes, this is real, and I am here for you”? Becky shouldn’t have died.

We think it is time to raise awareness. In this post I have partially addressed suicide, but there is so much, so much more to cover on this matter of the mind and its health, and that is why we all have to come together. Writers, Poets, Spokenword Artists, Bloggers, Photographers, Graphic Designers, Fine Artists, Academics, Activists, Musicians, Concerned Citizens, everybody…let us speak up, tell our stories, form a community that gives support. We’d save lives, we’d save futures, and by so doing, help put the development of this country on a fast track.

#StateOfMyMind has already started on twitter. We want to make this big. Join us, tell your story, reach out, show some love, let’s correct our perceptions on Mental Health in Ghana.

Dear Becky,

Tonight I am writing about you. It is strange that I am doing this for the first time, after how many years? OMG, 6 already? Yes, it is strange. Because quite a number of times this year, I have met people I thought had striking resemblance to you. At such moments I caught myself wondering where you would have been had I been a better friend. Ghana failed you, did we not? I miss you, you would have been an amazing poet and writer, you had it in you. Tonight, I am remembering you, but I do not want to do it alone. I want your death to not be in vain. I want others who did not even know you, to remember you with me. I want to start this campaign with you, and your blessed memory, so you live on, somehow. Stay at rest, Becky.


Much love,

Hannah Anarfi (You refused to call me Amma. You always called me by these two names. Never Hannah alone, never Anarfi alone; always Hannah Anarfi)


3 thoughts on “#StateOfMyMind

  1. Reblogged this on Intersections by Andrea and commented:
    If anything is overdue, it’s definitely something like this. Been waiting to blog about my own experiences and education about mental health, both of which really took shape this year. Will do that as soon as I’m ready. Thank you for the post and initiating the discussion, Ms. Anarfi.

    Liked by 1 person

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