As Nigerians, we don’t really have conversations about mental health and that needs to change. Even in your circle of friends, you might have someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, and all these are shrugged off. No matter how much we try to say that mental illness and suicide is not in our culture, it’s a reality we have to live with.
According to The Federal Ministry of Health, 3 in 10 Nigerians suffer from some sort of mental disorder, and more than 7 million Nigerians are living with depression. Mental health awareness in Nigeria has become a national health crisis, and we can’t keep being ignorant about it.
So, as Nigerians, how can we be mentally aware, both for us and the people around us?
Have conversations about mental health
The best way to be more mentally aware is to have these conversations with people who are more experienced than you, learning and unlearning the preconceived notions you have around mental health. Mentally Aware Nigeria (@MANI) hosts conversations like this, you can find one in your city.
People living with mental illness are not weak, or attention seekers, or don’t pray enough. The same way you would not say that malaria is anyone’s fault, mental illness cannot be helped. Be kind to both friends and strangers, especially on the internet.
Don’t try to compare your “suffering” with their own
Nigerians comfort others who are suffering by telling them that theirs is a “small thing”. “Ah, you think you’re suffering? If I tell you my own eh…” This won’t help when you have friends working through mental illness. The best thing you can do is to just listen to them.
Don’t make it about religion
“Just pray and fast” “You should come to our church…” Religion has its place in our lives, but so does getting professional help from actual doctors trained to deal with mental illness. Don’t tell them they have spiritual problems that can be prayed away, instead, support them in prayers as they get treatment.
Look out for your friends
Know when to offer support and when to call in help from people more qualified than you. Be a support system to your friends, and always find out how they are feeling. If it’s necessary to, inform their family so they can keep a close watch on them, and make sure they’re taking their meds. Check on your strong friends too.
If you need to talk, or you’re worried about someone close to you, contact:
Nigeria Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI)
Email: [email protected]
Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI)
Email: [email protected]
Lagos State Government Suicide Hotline
Call: 08058820777 and 09030000741
LUTH Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN)
Call: 09080217555, 09034400009, 08111909909 and 07013811143.
Reach out, be informed, and protect your mental health for a better Nigeria.
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Featured image: @shecannigeria via Twitter