Home Community Insights How Walking Around Without a Set Destination is a Mental Health Indicator

How Walking Around Without a Set Destination is a Mental Health Indicator

How Walking Around Without a Set Destination is a Mental Health Indicator

In the continuation of our thought leadership series on mental health issues and needs associated with spiritual dynamics, Umar Olansile, our support writer to the main analyst, narrates one of the cases that have been scheduled for weekly publication, starting today. He had earlier identified sorcery as one of the spiritual causes of mental illnesses in individuals. In Islam, it is believed that fetish people can use black magic to influence Jinns and make individuals’ intellect unconscious, though only if Allah (Muslims’ name for God) wishes. The patient in this case study is a married man, 35, from an urban city in Nigeria. In this piece, he is named Abdullah.

What happened?

In May 2023, I received a phone call from our Imam some hours after we concluded an early morning prayer (Subhi) at our mosque. I was one of the lecturers who delivered spiritual sermons at the mosque on a regular basis. One of our members left the house immediately after the prayer. He left his motorcycle and mobile phone at home. His heavily pregnant wife was worried as his husband’s movement looked totally strange. We all waited. Abdullah came back almost 12 hours later. We asked him about his whereabouts, but his response was not satisfactory. At this point, the wife needed our assistance.

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What were his symptoms?

Despite having a motorcycle, Abdullahi trekked 30 kilometres to and back from another community. He did not provide any understandable explanation for this unusual rigorous trek. For a few days, he stopped observing daily prayers. His responses to questions seemed strange. This was not the Abdullah we knew. We hypothesised: This looks like a spiritual attack!  

How did we know it was sorcery?

We made an appointment with the Islamic exorcist whose services we always use anytime such attacks occur. We trust(ed) him. He is one of the few exorcists Allah uses to expel Jinns and sorcery out of patients. He asked him a few questions before embarking on spiritual diagnoses.

How was he treated?

Abdullah was first given a mixture of powdered herbs to sniff. He instantly reacted to it. He developed a physical strength of three agile men before rolling on the floor. The exorcist moved to the second stage: reciting selected verses from the Qur’an known as Ar-Ruqyatu As-Shar’iyyah. He was later prescribed some prophetic medicine to use for some days. Abdullah was asked post-treatment questions to be certain of the diagnosis and the therapies. His responses and reactions showed that his temporary mental unconsciousness was from sorcery. Most times, he did eat unrecognised food items from his dreams. At a point before his case, he stopped saying his daily adhkhaar. Adhkaar are daily protective prayers Muslims are enjoined to say.

What did we learn?

This case added to other cases of sorcery/witchcraft we had witnessed and read about in non-Western literature. The case taught us that there are no biomedical models yet that can treat mental illnesses related to spirituality. For now, only a culture-centred model can treat spiritual mental illnesses in Africa and beyond. Also, adhkaar is a very significant spiritual weapon Muslims believe in. Since then, Abdullah doesn’t joke with his adhkaar.

Umar Olansile Ajetunmobi, an independent, interdisciplinary researcher with special interests in political, (mental) health, development, and digital media communication, contributes to the development of this piece through his skills and knowledge garnered over the years.

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