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Some routes we find ourselves using on daily basis makes us sometimes wonder what this whole world revolves around. The distance from the house to the workplace is not long so when I can, I choose to walk.

When in a car going to work, I prefer to look out of the windows of the car because I love the breeze that comes when the wind hits my face. Then again, I make mental notes of things I see along the road.

Amidst several things, one thing that strikes me as troubling to an extent is the presence of mentally retarded people on the streets. Sometimes, I just wonder what could possibly make them be on the streets. Is it that they have no family, or their place of solace is in the streets?

Sometimes, one could make assumptions but till you hear the side of the story from the victim, it’s best not to make any conclusions.
But in this case, I get shaken when I bypass this manner of people so how do I approach them to ask them what the problem really is.

To satisfy my curiosity, I took to asking around and searching for seemingly likely answers to this.

To my dismay, I found out that mental illness as a thing, no exact cause or an agreed-upon factor that breeds it. Conditions, however, come about as a mixture of biological, physiological and environmental factors.

Some mental illnesses have been linked to an abnormal balance of special chemicals in the brain called Neurotransmitters. These help the nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other and so when an interruption or balance fails, there comes a defect. To talk about this further, genetics, infections, brain defects, prenatal damages, poor nutrition and exposure to toxic substances make up the biological factors.
Moving to psychological trauma(emotional, physical or social abuse), early loss, negligence and poor ability to relate well with others constitutes this.
Environmental has it that almost everything to do with one’s location can alter one’s way of thinking. And these range from social or cultural expectations right to family life.

Having found these, I find it very disturbing when I some of these mentally retarded people acting sane sometimes. Aside from the”jabbering words” which sometimes makes some sense, their way of life has an interesting turnout.

In spite of they being mentally retarded, some, adhere to the “cleanliness ….” issue. They try to gather rubbish as they go along. Aside their appearance being questionable, they try to clean their surroundings and that I find very interesting.
When the women get pregnant, they tend to be very protective and this makes me realise that even though there is a hitch in their brains, they still go an extra mile just to protect their kids.

I decided to ask a psychiatric health worker as to why there seem to be too many mentally retarded people on the streets and not in the institutions? As said by her, people come in every day with issues of the brain. When it’s subtle, medicine is given to correct it and the person is asked to go home. However, if it’s serious, the person has to be treated and observed for some time in the health institutions.

Due to inadequate facilities, when a patient is seen as improving, a discharge has to be made to pave way for others with a caution being sounded to the guardians should administer the medicines as well as bring them back for constant check ups. This, however, is hardly done and so there is a zero work done making the patients take to the streets.

Inasmuch as it is burdensome to treat or care for someone with a mental disorder, it depends on the guardians to assist in making things better. The feeling of embarrassment is already noticed but will it lessen any bit when they take to the streets? If a simple care can’t be extended, will it be wrong to say the guardians to some extent are also mentally retarded?
Mishaps do happen but the way we go about it can make it look infinitesimal or enormous.

By: Millicent Fornyikpor


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