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DEPENDENCY SYNDROME AND MENTAL HEALTH IN THE GAMBIA
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WHAT IS DEPENDENCY SYNDROME?
It is a personalized disorder that is characterized by a pervasive psychological dependence on others. This personality disorder is a long term (chronic) condition in which people depend on others to meet their emotional, physical and financial needs, with only a minority achieving normal levels of independence. Long-term provision of aid to people in need of assistance has been associated with fear of creating a dependency syndrome. The primary concerns are that beneficiaries will lose the motivation to work to improve their own livelihoods after receiving benefits, or that they will deliberately reduce their work efforts in order to qualify for the transfer. This paper strives to answer the question of whether long-term recipients of aid develop a dependency syndrome, reducing their own efforts to improve their livelihoods, by analyzing the behavior and livelihoods activities of financial aid beneficiary in the Gambia to whom financial aid is provided to. (Frank Ellis, 2000)
According to the World Health Organization, dependency syndrome is characterized by at least 3 of the following:
1) Encouraging or allowing other to make most of one’s important life decisions;
2) Subordination of one’s own needs to those of others on whom one is dependent, and undue compliance with others’ wishes;
3) Unwillingness to make even reasonable demands on the people one depends on;
4) Feeling uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of inability to care for oneself;
5) Preoccupation with fears of being abandoned by a person with whom one has a close relationship, and of being left to care for oneself
6) Limited capacity to make everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others. (Beck, A.T; et al (1990).
In our research work, we have analyzed how dependency syndrome has affected the mental health of both providers and dependants in Africa with the Gambia in view.
This study is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted within two (2) areas in the Gambia during a period of about three (3) weeks from 27th May 2015 – 14th of June 2015 in response to the question: Is there dependency syndrome in the Gambia?
The fieldwork was carried out by a team of four (4) qualified researchers who used the empirical approach and made use of the survey method. A questionnaire was made which aimed to get relevant and in-depth data from the interviewees voluntarily.
In order to get the demographic interpretations of the research, the people interviewed comprised of literates and illiterates, high income earners or business owners and minimum wage earners, dependents and independents. All the interviewed people ranged between the ages of 17 and 80 years old. Due to some challenges, the team was only able to interview people within Kanifing municipal council and Banjul, the Gambia. The total number of people interviewed was seventy-two (72).
Although the study had its limitations, we were able to achieve our main aim, though future research is needed to show the effects of dependency syndrome in the African society on a wide scale. The study was effective in its approach because it answered our questions about dependency syndrome.
This research was focused on proving the extent of dependency syndrome and its effect on the mental health of both dependants and providers in The Gambia. For clarity, these results were gotten via the above mentioned methodologies and it is centered on The Gambia.
AGE RANGE PERCENTAGE OF DEPENDANTS
The table above shows the age ranges interviewed, directly or indirectly calculated percentage of dependants within each range.
According to this result, 20% showed the dependency syndrome and this largely included severely handicapped people and 80% were largely without dependency syndrome but sure depend on people from time to time.
The purpose of this study which was conducted on 72 volunteers including both men and women ranging from different age groups, educational qualifications, occupations and living in different demographic areas and from different works of lives was to examine and to explore dependency syndrome in Africa with the Gambia in view.
In our research we were able to find out that 68% of interviewed subjects give financial help to their immediate families and relatives as well as external people not related to them. On one hand 100% of the providers interviewed supported feeling gratified helping others. On the other hand, 46% reported to have borrowed money from other to provide for their immediate and extended family. 59% of interviewed subject reported feeling mentally stressed while 36.4% support helping each other as means of social security. Among the dependants interview which included 50 people from age range of 11-80 years acknowledge the importance of help they receive. A dependency trend was being observed from our data. The data reflects that dependency is highest among 0-20 years old, from 30-50 years its lowest where from 51 and onwards, its increasing as people of the group is mostly old and retired people who depend on their families for their needs almost entirely.
Measuring the extent of dependency syndrome is not simple, as it relates to individual behavior. Though this research has tried to address the issue of dependency syndrome in the context of the Gambia, the study is not without limitations. It is focused on two research areas of the Gambia; Kanifing Municipal Council (K.M.C) and Banjul which is not enough of a representative sampling strategy to make generalizations about dependency syndrome in the Gambia overall. This is partly due to the limited period available during which this research was conducted and partly due to lack of access to transportation to the rural areas of the Gambia. One of the challenges faced during the research was language barrier which limited our interviews to English speaking interviewees as there were no interpreter available and the team which conducted the interviews was mainly composed of English speaking non- Gambians.
Helping others theoretically can contribute to dependency syndrome. This is especially true when people receive financial help from others even when they are not chronically in need of external assistance to meet their daily needs. This is what is described as a negative dependency, which occurs when individuals’ or households’ needs are met at the expense of recipients’ capacity to meet their own basic needs in the future. This has a limiting effect in the long run on majority of people who provide for others, in the sense that, after providing for others, they themselves are left with little or no resources to embark on future investment and developmental plans of their own. Also helping others on regular basis is mentally draining. From our research, 46% of people go as far as borrowing money from others to use and help others; also people interviewed tend to prioritize other people’s needs at times before their own.
One interviewee said “it is stressful because too many people depend on too few people”. Accordingly, survey result shows that most people were providing for five people at least on regular basis and many others from time to time. Some of the interviewees were providing for as much as ten or more people on regular basis. Another interviewee expressed “helping others is suffocating because it is mostly one way”. This interviewee’s perception was shared by 63.6% of other interviewees; this makes some people want to travel abroad in other to escape and others to distance themselves from friends and families in other to find their peace. In our study all interviewed people claimed to feel satisfaction helping others yet look for coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of having to not jus cater for their needs, their immediate families’ but also extended family members and external people as well
Generally, results of this research reveal that in the study area there is no evidence a dependency syndrome or a dependency mentality among beneficiary individuals except in the case of physically disabled and children. Research findings indicate that, given individuals’ experience with financial assistance, it is unlikely that financial aid beneficiary individuals have developed a dependency syndrome as a result of the financial help from others, because the amount of help is limited while the reliability and predictability is not guaranteed. However, due to limited livelihood opportunities to improve their lifestyle and financial status, a large number of individuals depend on financial help from friends and families to cover part of their financial shortages. This is a reflection of positive dependency and should not be confused with dependency syndrome, which is characterized by unwillingness to engage in life-changing activities due to anticipation of external help (Aschale, D.S (2012).
However, regardless of the limitations, the results discussed in this paper provide important insights regarding what should be taken into account when dealing with local people’s behavior and dependence on help from others and thus have significant implications for future research on the subject.
Dependency syndrome is defined as a pervasive dependence on others for ones daily needs. Our research was to find out the extent of dependency syndrome in the Gambia and the mental health implications on both dependents and providers. We used empirical approach and an extensive survey method to undertake this research.
The results showed an average of 20% of the population exhibiting the dependency syndrome; the study was not without limitations.
In conclusion the Gambian society according to our research had a very little percentage of its population with the dependency syndrome including handicapped people and children.
1. Aschale, D.S (2012) the journal of humanitarian assistance November 27, 2012
2. Beck, A.T; et al (1990) Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. New York; Guilford press ISBN 978-0-89862-434-2
3. Frank Ellis, Rural Livelihoods and Diversity in Developing Countries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000): 40.
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