02 Aug Ato Kwamena (psychiatric nurse): “This job is all about passion and dedication”
Ato Kwamena Sagoe is a mental health nurse from Ghana. At the moment he is working at the Saint Benedict Menni Mental Health Centre in Monrovia after passing through one of the Sisters hospitals in Ghana where he had his psychiatry affiliation.
Tell us about yourself.
I come from Ajumako, a town in the Ajumako-Enyan Essiam district in the central region of Ghana. My hometown is the capital and famous for being the birthplace of Ottobah Cuguano, an abolitionist of the 18th century. The main occupation of the people is farming. I was born in Accra where I lived with my parents and siblings. I occasionally visit my family at Ajumako. I am a Registered Mental Health Nurse having completed a 3- year course at the Psychiatric Nurses Training College-Ankaful. I did my national service at the Anglo-Gold Ashanti Health Foundation in Obuasi. Due to my hard work and dedication, I was invited to work there for about a year and a half on a voluntary basis.
Through family meetings and other forms of psychotherapy, I hope we can educate the country as a whole, through the ministry to explode the myths about mental illness.
How long have you been working for the Sisters Hospitallers? Did you know about our institution before?
I have been here, in Monrovia, since March of this year. I knew the Sisters Hospitallers in Ghana where I used to work at the St. Benito Menni hospital in Dompoase. I had my psychiatry affiliation during my national service there.
What would you say makes this institution special?
This is the only exclusive rehabilitation centre we have here in Monrovia. The environment is calm and safe for people whose behaviour frequently changes due to mental illness. They feel at home here and their families are very happy with our work.
What do you feel about your work?
Knowing that my life is devoted to caring for people with mental instability is one of the best feelings you can have.
What do you like most about your job?
This job is all about passion, dedication and altruism and giving something back to society. I wish mental illness did not exist but I know that is impossible. Mental illness is no respecter of people. I feel the condition makes them feel resentful and it is unpleasant to see them go through it.
This job is all about passion, dedication and altruism and giving something back to society I wish mental illness did not exist but I know that is impossible.
Is there anything that would help you to do your job better?
If we could have an organisation to support us with occupational health, this would assist most of these patients. The arts and craftwork these people do is amazing. There should be a place where they can work after discharge which would reduce relapses.
Can you recall a truly special moment working at the center?
I have not been long here, but there are some fond memories. When I tried to bring one of our clients back from the street, she became abusive. She never understood why we were so interested in bringing her back to the unit. Days later, she would cry and show remorsefulness for her behaviour. Now, she uses morning devotion as a way to apologise and appreciate our help. It feels very special now that she knows she is in a better place.
Have you been through any difficult time at work?
There are always hurdles in life and they happen to strengthen us and indicate to us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Patients sometimes think that I am keeping them in the unit. Sometimes in an attempt to plead for discharge, they come to sleep in front of my door and cry. It is difficult to let them know that the place is not a prison but a place to restore them to good mental health.
Caring for people with mental instability are one of the best feelings you can have.
How do you believe you are contributing to the Sister’s mission to the community?
Through family meetings and other forms of psychotherapy, I hope we can educate the country as a whole, through the ministry to explode the myths about mental illness. It is a huge task but my team and I will be vociferous about the need for good mental health.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about working here or a volunteer who is thinking of coming to help?
There is no need for any rigmarole. I honestly feel the biggest challenge is about the history of the country and from my personal experience it is getting better. There is no war. Volunteers should come and help promote equality and a good mental health system in Liberia without fear. Mental health is total health.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
It has been a good stay so far. It would not have happened without the help of the Sisters and the staff. Before coming here, I heard a lot of pandemonium usually occurs, and I was fearful and panick but they made it very easy and comfortable for me. I really appreciate the work done by Marta and Cecilia. It hasn’t been easy filling their shoes.
Finally, can I offer my humblest gratitude to the administrators and organizations contributing to the welfare of our institution. And to Sr Lourdes, I am very grateful for the opportunity.