Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this topic, this blog post is written based on my personal interactions and observations. This post could be right or wrong but it is still my opinion.
I won’t start off this post stating statistics about Nigeria because I know it would all be wrong. I mean the last census was in 2006(know how many death and births since then?Neither do I)
Using my class as a case study-the other day in my gastrointestinal pharmacology class, we were told that H2 receptor antagonists have adverse effects which may include mental health disturbance. People started laughing and talking like any of the illnesses had a secret joke attached to its name. Someone even went as far as saying out loud “all this things na Oyibo man sickness, ie “all of them are a white man’s sickness and then there was more laughter and cheering. I sat observing them, wishing I could say something to rid them of such ignorance. I wanted to scream “how can you not see that the things you laugh about and more is everywhere around you?”(but I didn’t because I get so shaky whenever I have to speak in class,thank you anxiety). The lecturer watched them for awhile too before speaking, she said “it’s sad to see how some of you are talking about this as if it’s not a problem here too. Depression,anxiety,schizophrenia, it’s all real and even some of the people closest to you are experiencing this but you don’t notice anything ” and with that, the entire class quieted down and we moved on to proton pump inhibitors.
In Nigeria, we tend to blame everything on evil spirits and the devil(thank you Nollywood). What is schizophrenia when there are evil spirits that makes a person hear voices other people cannot? Like its easier to believe a person is possessed and controlled by an evil spirit than to believe they are depressed and cut themselves as a way to cope. Seek medical help for a demon T.B Joshua can remove? No way.
In Nigeria, people still believe mental illnesses only affects the white man due to ignorance and inadequate information. Still using my anatomy classes as the example,when we learn forensic science the slide show used are usually from other countries with no practical examples from Nigeria and so as the lecturers talk, people are listening to write notes to read for exams. What alot of people know about mental health issues are mostly through movies/tv series which may not have an accurate representation and pass complete information about that particular disorder.
In Nigeria, we act only after tragedy happens. Take the Lagos flood for example, the people living in the areas affected and the government knew that the poor drainage system plus several other factors could eventually lead to a flood but no one acted. Now after this flood, a hashtag on twitter and possibly been shown on CNN, everyone would want to do something.
What we can do to change this
- Educate yourself about mental health issues.
- Educate others(starting with the people around you)about mental health issues.
- Be more observant and you’d see there are a lot of people suffering around you. I know just talking with a person about their struggles won’t alleviate the problem but it can make them feel less alone.
- Stop telling people to pray their depression(or any other illness) away. Sometimes people need more than your prayers.
Just because there aren’t any clinics or treatment centers in Nigeria, it doesn’t mean you can’t seek help for whatever you’re going through.Try b-eat for help with eating disorders, breakthrough,iprevail and 7cups for other mental illnesses.
I hope you get the help you deserve.