Angela cared for her brother with mental health problems for much of her adult life. Once her brother was cured, she was finally able to get married and have a family, the absence of which had been as source of great pain for her.
Angela is 42 year old and lives in Belfast with her husband and baby daughter. She came to the UK from Nigeria two years ago. In Nigeria, Angela was caring for her older brother who suffered from mental health problems since his teens. His problems began as he started smoking marijuana. He soon became addicted and very unwell. Angela, along with their mother and other full-siblings, did what they could to help him, but he didn’t admit to having a problem and didn’t want help. He was unable to complete his degree in Law and was in and out of hospitals for a number of years.
The situation impacted greatly on Angela. Due to the stressful situation and the stigma attached to her brother’s mental health problems, she was unable to get married. She felt ridiculed and mocked because she was single and had no children in her mid-thirties, which, in her culture is often seen as shameful. She found it hard to concentrate on her studies, and spent several years extra completing her degree in French.
The last straw came when her brother, very ill, was rejected by a rehabilitation clinic. At that point Angela and another brother, who is a nurse, decided they needed to take serious action. Due to his mental health problems, which occasionally led to violent behaviour, they had to tie their brother’s hand and force him home. Angela is a committed Christian, and had prayed for her brother throughout his problems. She describes how, when her brother was rejected by the clinic, she begged God for help. She says her prayers were heard as her brother overcame his addiction and his mental health improved dramatically.
Coming from a polygamous family where her brother was the eldest son and Angela the eldest daughter of the first wife, they experienced rivalry and jealousy among their father’s children. Angela believes it was evil forces called upon from within the extended family that caused her brother’s drug addiction and, as a result, his mental health problems.
Once her brother’s mental health problems had gone, Angela felt free to focus on her own life. She met her husband and got married at 37. When she gave birth to a daughter aged 42, she felt fulfilled and that she finally could let go of the hard experiences of the past.
Angela believes people with mental health problems must receive support and pastoral care. She says that the UK can learn from other countries, where medication is not seen as the first option and where patients are not left in hospitals without much to do or look forward to.