The breaking news was at once devastating and heart-wrenching – a radio journalist kidnapped and gang-raped by five men with explicit images of the atrocity posted on social media!
In a matter of days, darker insights started emerging – her previous five disappearances on similar allegations of kidnap, her refusal and/or inability to cooperate with the Takoradi police in all those instances, the angle of a former lover who had jilted her and the possibility of the staged rape being used to incriminate his new lover, accounts of very troubled high school days with dismissal, and some inadequate involvement with a Nigerian benefactor leading to the adoption of his name. Even so, Adaezi Onyinyechie Ayoka, popularly called Ada, aka Naana Akosua Appiah Antwi, appears to have outdone herself this time!
Ada in trouble
With her transfer from the Takoradi Hospital to the Police Hospital in Accra and police anxiously waiting to take her statement, it appears the case of the alleged gang-rape has suddenly assumed criminal undertones with Ada, the former victim, apparently on the wrong side of the law. More fundamental questions arise – what offence will the police charge Ada with? what specific help does she need, whichever way the matter evolves? what should the public make of their feelings towards Ada? I had in the past week encountered two extremes of opinion; that she is a fraudulent attention seeker who has brought disgrace to womanhood or that she is a victim of mental ill health who needs public understanding and support in addition to getting medical help.
A mental health practitioner’s views
Ultimately, it is to a mental health practitioner and doctor that I revert for some expert opinions on the Ada story. Bipolar disorder or a manic depressive disorder is his diagnosis, and Ada needs help! In other words, Ada suffers the mental health disorder that causes “severe and unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.” People with bipolar illness may experience ‘mood episodes’ which represent a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behaviour – from an overly joyful or overexcited state (manic episode) to an extremely hopeless state (depressive episode) or a mixture of both extremes in a mixed state.
If Ada is really pretending as some say, then there must be some underlying motive driving this latest manifestation and merely getting the attention of a lover doesn’t quite qualify as sufficient motive for her drastic actions, says the doctor. Who, in their normal senses, would pose completely nude on social media during a staged rape act in order to get this type of attention?
In his view, this last rape is nothing more than a desire among people with bipolar to simply do outrageous things in support of a well-documented desire to exhibit “manic manifestations of impulsive behaviour and engaging in pleasurable high-risk behaviour.”
Another trait of the manic state is “the ability to get you to believe in and do things with them?” Could this perhaps explain Ada’s ability to convince five males to go along with the rape hoax? What mood was she in while undertaking this act? In the early days of her admission, did medical authorities screen her for substances such as alcohol, cocaine etc.?
Similarly, Ada’s recently published threat of suicide is not just some random response to public shame, but part of the manifestation of the depressive phase of the disease. The mental health practitioner called for a closer interrogation of her medical history to determine whether this indeed is her first suicidal threat or not. His guess is that it might not be!
The condition often develops in a person’s late teens or early adult years with at least half of all cases starting before age 25. The severest forms are seen in people whose first bipolar episode occurs at a younger age. Although it cannot be cured, it can be treated effectively over the long term with both medication and psychotherapy, including psychotherapy for the patient’s family.
“We do not have to wait until someone takes off her clothes before we say something is wrong,” advises the psychiatrist. While offering emotional support, patience and understanding to our friends and colleagues, it is very important to urge and accompany them to seek appropriate care. Never ignore comments from friends/colleagues about harming themselves.
The National Institute of Mental Health also advises relatives of diagnosed patients to offer support by helping them to keep a regular routine such as going to sleep and eating meals at the same time, getting sufficient sleep, staying on medication, learning about and detecting early warning signs signalling a shift into either depression or mania and not expecting symptoms to disappear overnight during treatment. Such symptoms may include manic behavioural changes such as talking very fast; jumping from one idea to another; being easily distracted; suddenly taking on new projects; being overly restless, sleeping for a very short time or not being tired and having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities, or depressive behavioural manifestations such as feeling tired; difficulty in concentrating; remembering and making decisions; being restless or irritable; changing eating, sleeping or other habits and thinking of death or attempting suicide.