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interview to Bernard Akumiah

01 September 2023, interviewer: Kasumi ITO at office of MindFreedom Ghana

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Kasumi Ito
Firstly, I'd like to know, how did you get involved in this mental health area?

Bernard Akumiah
I'm a survivor myself.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. How did you feel?

Bernard Akumiah
Presently or before?

Kasumi Ito
Before.

Bernard Akumiah
Okay. I was a normal person before. A normal person.

KasumFi Ito
A normal person.

Bernard Akumiah
Working. It happened just one day, that I was hearing voices. Then later, it turned to anxiety. I was quickly rushed to the psychiatric hospital ? Accra Psychiatric Hospital. That was in 1983.

Kasumi Ito
1983. Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. By God's grace, you are seeing me a normal person now. But I've passed through so many things. I didn't know much about the mental health disorder until it happened to me. My people, they are not aware of it. They don't know anything about it. The stigma was there, and the discrimination was there. but by God's grace, I'm now a normal person, working. But I've lost so many things because of my ill health. I was running a drinking spot.

Kasumi Ito
Spot?

Bernard Akumiah
Drinking spot. People come to take drinks. When I fell sick, all this collapsed. I was a big-time businessman ? I'll call myself. I have the ability to justify. This was my driving license. My driving license. I was having my own car, which I used in conveying the booze.

Kasumi Ito
Driver?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, I know how to drive. I drove a taxi before.

Kasumi Ito
Taxi!

Bernard Akumiah
This is also the license…

Kasumi Ito
Of the taxi?

Bernard Akumiah
The taxi. It's not easy. I was on drugs ? heavy drugs. For me, the first person who attended to me at the hospital was a professor, the oldest professor in West Africa by then, Professor E. F. B. Forster. His knowledge…

Kasumi Ito
From South Africa?

Bernard Akumiah
No. I learned he is a Liberian, although a Sierra Leonean, who worked at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital. When I was admitted, in 2 weeks' time, they discharged me. I became somehow normal. Then, when I went back, I relapsed. This happened in 1983. This continued on and off like that until 1989. I was taken to a prayer camp ? prayer camp.

Kasumi Ito
Prayer camp?

Bernard Akumiah
Prayer camp.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
But a lady had an issue before. She's not my wife, but when we were in the choir, I was a chorister. I know how to sing. I think I should give you the picture of that also when I was in the choir. There was a long-time preacher. He took me to a prayer camp. They shackled me. It was easy there. At midnight, 12 o'clock, they would use palm frond. The palm?

Kasumi Ito
Palm?

Bernard Akumiah
Palm. A tree, a branch. Palm frond. They would use it in whipping my head to my body. I'd be in a long dress. They call it a sultana. They call it sultana. I don't know where they got the name from, a long gown, white. You wouldn't wear shoes or sandals ? barefooted. They would take you behind the church premises. They called it a prayer ? they have a name for it. There, you would kneel down with a candle ? seven candlesticks. They would whip you very well. You see now. I could remember, one day I relapsed. They attacked me like a pig. You know how they attack pigs? Both hands and legs together.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
It wasn't easy for me. I stayed there for 2 years. Getting to the third year, I ran away from the camp.

Kasumi Ito
Do you mean that you stayed at the…?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, at the prayer camp.

Kasumi Ito
…prayer camp for 2 years?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, 2 years. But in short, I thank God that I'm alive. This is my house. I am standing there as a small boy, then.

Kasumi Ito
Is it in Accra?

Bernard Akumiah
Accra, yes. Dansoman. It has been taken from me by my senior brother.

Kasumi Ito
Your senior brother took it from you?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, one father, one mother ? sibling. Now, where I am is a poor place. Poor place.

Kasumi Ito
What it means?

Bernard Akumiah
Poor.

Kasumi Ito
Poor. Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
He is dead, but I'm alive. That is the difference. It's not me who is judging him, but the creator. I'm alive. In short, this is my life. I'm now working with Source of Light, an American NGO into divinity.

Kasumi Ito
American NGO?

Bernard Akumiah
NGO, yes, called Source of Light.

Kasumi Ito
Called Source of Light.

Bernard Akumiah
Source of Light.

Kasumi Ito
Source of Light.

Male Speaker
Source of Light, where it's coming from.

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
Do you get me? That's where I'm working.

Kasumi Ito
Now?

Bernard Akumiah
Now. Yes. When I was working with them, 10 years ago, they started with me, with 150 Ghanaian cedis, which cannot buy anything today. For 30 days, that's what they gave me.

Kasumi Ito
30 days?

Bernard Akumiah
For 30 days.

Kasumi Ito
Yes, for one month.

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, one month.

Kasumi Ito
How much can I ask again?

Bernard Akumiah
150. One hundred-five-zero. In 2 years' time, they increased it to 200. In another 2 years' time, they increased it to 300, three-zero-zero. Then, now, they make it 450. See the year of the disbursement, how I disburse the money, how I use the money. Because when I'm working, there's scarcity of food. I must buy rice and beans where I stay and carry along to the workplace at 5 cedis. I'll be working in the home [ph] and I'll get trotro, the common vehicles that we drive. It's not taxi, the minibuses, they're called trotro.

Kasumi Ito
Trotro.

Bernard Akumiah
Trotro, 3 cedis. When I'm going, it's becoming 8 cedis.

Kasumi Ito
Eight cedis?

Bernard Akumiah
Eight.

Kasumi Ito
Eight. Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
Cedis. When in the afternoon, around 12 to 1, I'll go in for fried yam.

Kasumi Ito
Yam.

Bernard Akumiah
For 4 cedis. Add it to the 8 cedis, it becomes 12 cedis. When I'm coming back, I ride trotro again at 3 cedis. It means I'm spending 150 ? sorry, 15 cedis, in my going and coming. In the evening, I must be like that. No food because there's no money. If somebody doesn't have sympathy for me to give me food, that's that. I'm a married couple. I have a wife, Gebi [ph]. She's also a worker. Either she provides the food, or we're going for loan. In short, it's difficult because the salary is scanty. Do you get me? It will be very difficult for a grown-up person like me to spend 15 cedis a day, that I'm working. Do you get me?

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
But what do I do? I'm old. I cannot be a driver's mate or a driver. My children will not allow me to be a cleaner somewhere too. They will say I'm trying to tarnish their image. They will blame me. They will accuse me. You are trying to damage our reputation? Do you get me? I'm open to be there. At the time, another chance will open for me.

Some years back, I heard of BasicNeeds, an NGO. Through them, I met MindFreedom. I was open to NGOs. I traveled with MindFreedom. Dan, me, and then sister Jane, the Director to South Africa, where I had an opportunity to become the Vice President of PANUSP, Pan African Network of Users and Survivors. I couldn't attend any international meeting. They made another election and they kicked me out. But I wasn't there. I didn't know that they are going to hold any meeting.

Through BasicNeeds, Mental Health Society of Ghana, MEHSOG, when they invited me for a program, whatever they gave me as T&T, that was I would save for evening meal. But this year, for instance, the opportunity hasn't come. Nobody has invited me to any meeting. Do you get me? You are the first person coming to interview me this year. Unlike the previous years, one or two or three people would hear of me and come for an interview. Of course, if they interviewed me, they gave me something.

Last 3 years, somebody interviewed me like this. I happened to get a chance of going to Kenya, Nairobi. That also exposed me to the world. When I returned, World Health Organization, WHO, they also invited me to programs, like we had one at Sogakope in the Volta region, another one to Kumasi. Then, two or three meetings at the Fiesta Hotel. I became an advocate for mental health because of the training that I had with BasicNeeds and MEHSOG.

As I was coming here, one of the several group members ? we have some groups that we formed. I was the volunteer for the area that I am, the community that I am. I am a volunteer for that community for BasicNeeds and MEHSOG ? Mental Health Society of Ghana. A lady called me and told me that she is going to be married just tomorrow, which was good news. She is a seizure disorder person. But by the grace of God, as we counseled them, they have medication, that thing has subsided. It's not as severe as before.

Myself, I am still on drug. I am on risperidone and amitriptyline, these two, 2 milligrams and 25 milligrams. When I take it, it makes me have a sound sleep. I wake up having a sound mind. I didn't stop since '83. I am still on drug. That's why you see me very stable like this.

I also share my experience with my colleagues in the community. I comfort them. I take some to the psychiatric hospital. I tell them they should take their medicine, and then listen to whatever the doctor would tell them. They hear me. They shouldn't feel sad because they are not the only people suffering from that illness, or they shouldn't think why me?

When this thing happened to me, at first, I was saying, why me? I mean, why should a person like me fall sick like that? But who am I? We are all humans and one person created us all. That was positive. They should stop it and accept it that that's come to me. But the creator can take it out from them.

That's what I tell my people. I counsel them. Give them advice. Look, comport yourself. Don't aggravate yourself, I'm like this, I'm like that. No. Socialize with people even despite the health issue. But mind you, when you are taking the drug, you are becoming alright. Know the difference between certain things that you do before, and certain things that you cannot do. Do you get me?

Maybe if you don't take your bath, you don't change your dress, now change it. If you don't socialize, socialize with people. Do you get me? If you don't attend church, go to church. Just find yourself in a group so that it will wipe up your thinking. Why me? Why me? It will go if you can socialize. It will help you. It'll help you. Just don't feel, why me, or I don't deserve this.

Who deserves it? It's like illness. Do you get me? People marry. I shouldn't say. You are probably a married folk. Do you get me? You are genuine. You don't go out after the marriage. You don't abuse the marriage. Your husband can go and have an affair with another woman and kind of give you the disease. Do you get me? But what do you do? Only take the medication, and then pray that you become totally healed.

This is what I tell my people. Do you get me? I tell them they should take the medication. They shouldn't think, why me? Why me? They should avoid it. It can happen to anybody at all. The late President of Ghana also suffered from mental illness. Do you get me?

The World Health Organization is telling the world that where people are more than four, one person ? before he passes away ? will suffer mental illness. Just one, two, three, four. Who are you? In Africa, here, I'm the tenth born of my parents ? tenth. It means two of us can fall sick, like that. Do you get me? For every four, you can have one. If we are ten, that means two can have that illness. But thank God, none. I'm the last person surviving now. Everybody is gone ? dead. I'm the only person living. This is the brief life story of myself. You are welcome.

Kasumi Ito
Can I ask a question?

Bernard Akumiah
You can ask.

Kasumi Ito
When you say that you are a normal person…

Bernard Akumiah
I say what?

Kasumi Ito
You told me you were a normal person before you…

Bernard Akumiah
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
At that time, your work was a taxi driver?

Bernard Akumiah
No. Selling of drinks.

Kasumi Ito
Selling of drinks?

Bernard Akumiah
Drinks, yes. If you like, I'll call it beverage.

Kasumi Ito
Beverage. Then, you heard the voice and you felt feel anxiety. At that time, you heard the voice.

Bernard Akumiah
When it started?

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
I hear the voice. I heard the voices. This made my senior brother to rush me to the hospital.

Kasumi Ito
Why your senior brother understood that such a situation as a…

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. He worked with Ghana Tobacco Company ? BAT, British American Tobacco Company, the mixed grid [ph], so he is exposed to academicians.

Kasumi Ito
He had the knowledge about the…

Bernard Akumiah
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
The year you went to Accra Psychiatric Hospital was 1983.

Bernard Akumiah
'83. That was in February. But the date, I forgot.

Kasumi Ito
It's okay.

Bernard Akumiah
February '83. It's 40 years, now, plus.

Kasumi Ito
Did you agree to go to the hospital?

Bernard Akumiah
It wasn't easy. I told them I'm normal. I'm not abnormal. I'm a sound person. Why did they bring me here? As I told you, I was aggravated myself. Why me here? No, don't take me here. Why? By then, 40 years ago, Accra Psychiatric Hospital wasn't neat. Do you get me? It wasn't decent at all. There were bedbugs and those insects would bite in the mattress. Yes, at the hospital, there was. Then, the porridge that they made for the patients also was not good. The bowl inside that they served it, because by then there wasn't plastic bowls, they used aluminum bowls, so it became crooked when it falls down. You see, not straight. That's the bowl that they used to serve people.

If you were like a businessman before, you know how you handle your food at home, then you are not taking something like that. You see that there is a difference in it. You see there is a difference in it. As you can see, that's what we use in serving dogs. You see now? You feel they are regarding us as abnormal persons still.

When you fall sick with a mental disorder, you always think you are a normal person in the beginning. You don't accept that you are abnormal. You don't. Do you get me? You don't. You think you are a usual person. If you can't understand yourself that you are not well, it's just that you can have good medication. Do you get me? When you can understand yourself that, oh, I am sick, let me take the drugs. Let me take the injection.

When I was sick, at the beginning, the first 2 weeks that I had been there, I struggled with the nurses. I struggled with the nurses. It wasn't easy. They strongly hold me, put me down on the floor before they would inject me because I wasn't allowing them to do it at ease. I didn't understand myself. Do you get me? I thought, oh, I am still normal. Don't do it. That's something wrong you shouldn't do.

Kasumi Ito
Were you admitted in the Accra Psychiatric Hospital?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. They admitted me.

Kasumi Ito
How many times?

Bernard Akumiah
It's on and off for about six times.

Kasumi Ito
How long were you admitted?

Bernard Akumiah
I stayed there for 2 weeks, then I went home.

Kasumi Ito
Two weeks?

Bernard Akumiah
Two weeks.

Kasumi Ito
Two days?

Bernard Akumiah
Weeks.

Kasumi Ito
Weeks.

Bernard Akumiah
Two weeks. It's not understanding the two weeks.

Male Speaker
One week.

Kasumi Ito
One week?

Male Speaker
Two weeks.

Kasumi Ito
Two weeks. Thank you. Sorry.

Bernard Akumiah
That's the strange aspect of the whole thing. In 2 weeks' time, I'd be normal. Then, they would discharge me. When I go back, I will be taking the drugs alright. Of course, you can come back.

Kasumi Ito
After the discharge, you…

Bernard Akumiah
When I go home.

Kasumi Ito
You took the medicine? No?

Bernard Akumiah
I take. All right. Sometimes I take, sometimes I don't take.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
Do you get me?

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
I will relapse again.

Kasumi Ito
Why did you reject to take the medicine when you go home?

Bernard Akumiah
I told you I didn't understand myself by then. That was my first time of being here in ? there's a hospital called Psychiatric Hospital. What I knew was when a person is abnormal, as you can see, they can't stop you and say you're abnormal. When somebody falls sick mentally, I know he looks dirty. The hair becomes like you pour bitumen on it. You see their dresses, the shoes torn out, their dresses are shabby. I never knew that everybody could fall sick like that. Not everybody who looks dirty is abnormal. Do you get me? You can be neatly dressed, but still sick. Do you get me? In the beginning, I didn't understand myself at all.

Kasumi Ito
After the discharge, you go back to your home. Did you work at that time?

Bernard Akumiah
No. I tried to work but couldn't. I relapsed again.

Kasumi Ito
The last time of your admission was in 1983.

Bernard Akumiah
'83.

Kasumi Ito
Not the first, but the last one. The last one was also in 1983.

Bernard Akumiah
The first one was 1983.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. The last one was…

Bernard Akumiah
I don't get your question.

Kasumi Ito
You were admitted six times.

Bernard Akumiah
It's on and off, different years.

Kasumi Ito
Different years. When was the last time?

Bernard Akumiah
My last time.

Kasumi Ito
Yes, your last time.

Bernard Akumiah
It was more than 20-something years.

Kasumi Ito
After the first one?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. About 25 or 27 years now, I haven't been to the hospital again.

Kasumi Ito
The time when you went to the prayer camp was 1989?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, '89.

Kasumi Ito
Why did you go to the prayer camp?

Bernard Akumiah
I was told when they'd pray for me, I won't take the drugs again, and I'll be okay. This is what they told me.

Kasumi Ito
Who told you to go there? Who?

Bernard Akumiah
My wife. My former wife. I'm no more with her.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. When did you marry your wife?

Bernard Akumiah
It wasn't marriage. It was boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and pregnancy came. I was the one who did it, so I must accept the child and the woman. After the delivery, I was taking care of them. When the child can go to school, we break.

Kasumi Ito
That girlfriend told you to go to the prayer camp, and you went to the prayer camp?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, in Accra. Yes.

Kasumi Ito
Accra, okay. Did you stay in the church?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, I stayed there.

Kasumi Ito
For 2 years?

Bernard Akumiah
For 2 years.

Kasumi Ito
At that time, you didn't come back to your home.

Bernard Akumiah
No, I stayed there. No. The funny thing they told me is when I come to my house, I'd die. That's the funny thing they told me. You see now? If I remove the long dress, I'll become mad again, so I feared. But after the 2 years, I said no. I can go back. They put fear in me. They put fear in me.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. Okay. I want to know what did you do in the prayer camp, usually, in your daily life.

Bernard Akumiah
I just stayed there. When it was choir time, music time, I joined them practicing songs. On Sundays, we sing. When there is a church service, we sing. I wasn't really awake [ph].

Kasumi Ito
Okay. How often were you beaten with the tree?

Bernard Akumiah
The palm frond? At midnight, 12 o'clock.

Kasumi Ito
Every day, midnight?

Bernard Akumiah
Sometimes, yes.

Kasumi Ito
Midnight, okay.

Bernard Akumiah
Midnight.

Kasumi Ito
How often were you tied like a pig?

Bernard Akumiah
Come again.

Kasumi Ito
How often were you tied?

Bernard Akumiah
Like a pig?

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
Okay. Oh, it was just once. I must be fair ? only once. Only once.

Kasumi Ito
How many hours did you…?

Bernard Akumiah
It took me about 5 hours.

Kasumi Ito
Really!

Bernard Akumiah
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
Is it the treatment for you?

Bernard Akumiah
You see, I relapsed. I was making noise. When I went to the church, I was told not to take the medicine, so I wasn't taking the medicine and I relapsed.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. Then, they tied you.

Bernard Akumiah
Like this, my hand and my leg together.

Kasumi Ito
Really! Okay. How did your brother know you were treated in such a way and take you to your home?

Bernard Akumiah
No, he wasn't the one. I myself escaped.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. How did you understand you need to go back to home?

Bernard Akumiah
In 2 years' time, I realized the treatment that they are giving me was too much.

Kasumi Ito
Too much.

Bernard Akumiah
I must get my freedom.

Kasumi Ito
At that time, you got to know MindFreedom you mean?

Bernard Akumiah
No. I must ? me myself to get my freedom.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
By then, MindFreedom didn't exist.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Is it easy to run away from the prayer camp?

Bernard Akumiah
When I went to the hospital at first, when I escaped from there, it's the same. It's just Asylum Down. Asylum Down is the lower part of Accra Psychiatric Hospital. It's the same area.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. You ran away from the prayer camp, and then go to Accra?

Bernard Akumiah
The hospital, and they gave me medicine. At that time, you thought you needed medicine.

Bernard Akumiah
When I was at the prayer camp, I wasn't using the medicine.

Kasumi Ito
You used medicine? You took medicine?

Bernard Akumiah
No.

Kasumi Ito
No.

Bernard Akumiah
But when I ran away, I was taking it and I became all right.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. The psychiatrist in the Accra Psychiatric Hospital prescribed your medicine.

Bernard Akumiah
My medicine, my medication.

Kasumi Ito
And you accepted?

Bernard Akumiah
Oh, yes.

Kasumi Ito
Were you admitted at that time?

Bernard Akumiah
No, I wasn't admitted.

Kasumi Ito
Just outpatient?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
After you ran away from the prayer camp, did you live with your senior brother's family?

Bernard Akumiah
You see, my senior brother mistreated me, so I disliked him. I must be frank. Because we were having three commerce [ph] that people were operating for us. The two which were mounted by dad, which I got is a shop. That is working. He said it's for him. The third commerce which is lying down, which were already mounted, he said it's for me.

I've seen that he has cheated me, robbed [ph] me. Where I was living with him, the picture I showed you, where I was living with him, he rented a place to somebody. He told me 7 years. But in Accra, in those days, when you rent a room at all, the longest would be 3 years. I asked him, why he didn't inform [ph] before you rent my apartment to somebody? I disliked him. I disliked him. He knows that I disliked him.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Then, you rent an apartment.

Bernard Akumiah
I left it because when I was going to admission, it was me who gave him my keys. These are the bunch of keys. I'm going to admission. That was what he just did.

Kasumi Ito
Then, after the prayer camp, then you became an outpatient. Then, how did you get a job in the American NGO? How did you find that job?

Bernard Akumiah
It was later. The job that I'm doing now is just later part. It's some 10 years or 11 years ago.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
This thing happened to me 40 years now.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. What did you do between running away from the prayer camp and getting a job?

Bernard Akumiah
I wasn't doing anything.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
I operated from commerce [ph] for some time. Because I wasn't getting any good person to operate it for me. I did it for some time and I stopped because I'll be there from morning to evening because something was local, a measure that they use in measuring corn-mill.

Kasumi Ito
Corn? Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
Corn. You go there, you only get one meal. I'll go to the shop when I'm hungry. I saw this workshop and renovated where I am. The new place that I am in, I renovated it. I used the money to renovate it. From that time, I wasn't doing anything. I think you understand me now.

Kasumi Ito
The time when you went to Cape Town as a ? I have to know. Sorry.

Bernard Akumiah
What was I doing?

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
I was a volunteer for BasicNeeds for my community.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. How did you know of BasicNeeds?

Bernard Akumiah
It's through a friend.

Kasumi Ito
A friend.

Bernard Akumiah
A late friend, Doris Appiah-Danquah. I think that was before she died. She was a popular lady. She also was a survivor in psychiatry. She talked to me about BasicNeeds. They organized a meeting, and I joined them for some time. The lady who was by then a volunteer before me said she was resigning. The lady recommended me to BasicNeeds that I can do the work.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. You did the volunteer work?

Bernard Akumiah
Work, yes.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. How did you get to know the lady who was a survivor, and introduced you to the…?

Bernard Akumiah
We lived in the same community.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. You lived in the same community?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. She's called Doris Appiah-Danquah. Doris.

Kasumi Ito
Doris.

Bernard Akumiah
But she's no more. She has expired. She died.

Kasumi Ito
Died. Do you remember which year you got into BasicNeeds?

Bernard Akumiah
I can't remember.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. No problem. Through the BasicNeeds, you came to know…?

Bernard Akumiah
When I joined BasicNeeds, it was the time when we were asked to form a mental society of Ghana.

Kasumi Ito
Mental Health Society.

Bernard Akumiah
Society of Ghana.

Kasumi Ito
MEHSOG.

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, MEHSOG. We traveled to the north.

Kasumi Ito
North?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. Wa, western part of the North. It's called Wa.

Kasumi Ito
Wa.

Bernard Akumiah
Wa. We go there. That's the regional capital ? Wa.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
The formation of mental society started from there. Gradually, we were able to form the Mental Health Society of Ghana. I was a member, about 19 or 20 years ago. We did travel to other regions, to Upper East, and then Tamale. I traveled to all these places with them.

Kasumi Ito
To establish the…

Bernard Akumiah
The Mental Health Society.

Kasumi Ito
You are the founder of MEHSOG.

Bernard Akumiah
MEHSOG.

Kasumi Ito
Did you work at that time?

Bernard Akumiah
My main work by then was…

Kasumi Ito
A volunteer?

Bernard Akumiah
Volunteer, yes.

Kasumi Ito
Then, how did you get to know MindFreedom?

Bernard Akumiah
It's through MEHSOG.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Bernard Akumiah
We make meetings. We have meetings. When we travel ? when I was about to travel with MindFreedom to South Africa before I knew that and all this, when we planned on going to South Africa, I was in MEHSOG before they introduced them to me that we are traveling together to South Africa.

Kasumi Ito
At that time, you didn't know each other.

Bernard Akumiah
No, we didn't know each other. But since that time till today, we are close, especially Doug [ph], I have not been hearing from him.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. You went to Cape Town?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
I want to know about that. What did you find?

Bernard Akumiah
In Cape Town?

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
That would be my first time of going in an aircraft. When I was climbing the staircase of the aircraft, tears dropped from my eyes because of the stigma I was experiencing at home. People say, oh, you're a mad person. Oh, what can he do? See, don't mind him. People shunned me. When they are talking like this, they are, oh, don't say anything. They would shun me. Do you get me? All of a sudden, really, they are inviting me to international meeting, so tears dropped from my eyes. It was nobody beating me or anything, but I became sad. God can promote me also like this. I never knew. When I went, I happened to get the post of Vice President.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. What did you feel? What did you find?

Bernard Akumiah
I went to Desmond Tutu's Cathedral at Cape Town. Desmond Tutu, that politician. Bishop Desmond Tutu. Bishop Desmond Tutu's Cathedral at Cape Town. I went there. I saw how nice, beautiful the cathedral is. We went to places like fishing ? here we call it fishing harbor.

Kasumi Ito
Fishing harbor.

Bernard Akumiah
Donaldo [ph], what is the name of that place that we went to, that fishing?

Male Speaker
Yes, the fishing…

Bernard Akumiah
There's a name for it.

Male Speaker
I forgot.

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, it's quite a lot.

Male Speaker
When the boats come in, and they bring the fish?

Kasumi Ito
Okay, fish.

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. It was a nice place. I went to poo-poo at the WC. I was about to pay before entering. They told me, why? Before you go to any public place like that, you must pay. But there, it's free. It was mixed too. Do you get me? Fish has got an odor. But over there, they maintain it. They make sure it's not severe. I like it. It was a mountain, a valley region. You see mountains. You see valleys.

I think the president ? the First President of South Africa, what is the name? We went to his house. We passed there, and they showed us the house that is where he lives. It was a nice place, because they even trim the trees. The trees that I saw by the roadside, they cut it nicely. They weeded the grasses neatly, but not like here. That's the difference. They make sure they entertain us, honestly. They took us to nice, nice places.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Did you become a friend with other…?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, some Malawians were there. Nigerians were there. Ugandans were there. We Ghanaians, and some other ones.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Then, you became a vice…?

Bernard Akumiah
President of PANUSP, Pan-African Network of Users and Survivors in Psychiatry, PANUSP.

Kasumi Ito
By their election?

Bernard Akumiah
Pardon?

Kasumi Ito
Is there an election?

Bernard Akumiah
Is it…?

Kasumi Ito
Voting? Election?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes. Yes, by election. By election. But Danquah was the one who promoted me like that. I wasn't about to go and stand. He said, go, go, go. We'll support you. I happened to win the election.

Kasumi Ito
Vice President of PANUSP?

Bernard Akumiah
PANUSP.

Kasumi Ito
What was your main work as the vice president?

Bernard Akumiah
By then, the Zoom meeting that you had today, we called it Skype meeting. By then, we didn't call it Zoom. We called it Skype meeting. I'd go to Mental Health Society of Ghana, MEHSOG office, and then we held meetings. I did that for about four or five times. They're now closed ? all.

Kasumi Ito
Four or five times.

Bernard Akumiah
That's all. I didn't hear from them again.

Kasumi Ito
You became the Vice President in 2011? Then, which year did you resign?

Bernard Akumiah
I mean, it was ? have you heard of Mr. Humphrey before? Mr. Humphrey?

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Bernard Akumiah
He told me that they held a lot of meetings, they were supposed to call me, but they didn't. He called them. Why didn't they invite me before taking the post from me? Then, there was this COVID-19 also in Ghana. They did it in Nairobi. No traveling by then. When they were about to inaugurate them, they wanted to invite me. We were planning towards that, and then the COVID came, so I couldn't go.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. You participated in the Skype meeting four or five times?

Bernard Akumiah
Yes, and that's all.

Kasumi Ito
What did you talk at that meeting?

Bernard Akumiah
I forgot.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. No problem. About 10 years ago, you found your new job.

Bernard Akumiah
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
Do you come to this office or other MEHSOG office?

Bernard Akumiah
No. I am with my new job. My new job is at Mamprobi, a suburb of Accra. Mamprobi is in the southern part of Accra.

Kasumi Ito
You are far from here? You live far from here?

Bernard Akumiah
It's not too far, but I drive car twice.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Thank you so much.

Bernard Akumiah
You are welcome.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. I'll stop the recording.

END

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