In Nigeria, if a person isn’t filthy, wearing a mix of tattered clothing, looks like he or she just walked a thousand miles, have on dreadlocks or dada as we’d rather call it and more importantly if the person can’t predict baba ijebu winning numbers then that person is definitely not mentally disturbed or mad right ?
WRONG ! A lot of people don’t realize that mental illness constitutes of much more because unfortunately the attention given to mental illness in Nigeria is transient and the level of awareness below par, which leads to misconceptions and mis-belief about mental illness which in turn leads to stigmatization of people with mental illness.
Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes or heart diseases. In Nigeria an estimated 20% – 30% of our population are believed to suffer from mental illness and according to the World Health Organization nearly half the world’s population are affected by mental illness with impacts on their self esteem, relationships and ability to function in everyday life.
This maybe surprising to some persons because we fail to realize that mental illness is much more than what Nigerian movies portray it to be, it’s much more than being homeless and dancing on the streets. There are people with homes and families who still suffer from mental disorders like
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Okay so I’m sure some persons don’t know what this is but guess what it’s actually very common in Nigeria with more than 1.5 million cases per year. ADHD is a mental development of the nuerodevelopment type. Let me break it down; it’s a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity- impulsivity that interferes with functioning and development. It affects both male and female and may often begin in childhood and persist into adulthood with symptoms such as depression, learning disability, absent-mindedness, hyperactivity, repetition of words, anxiety, anger and impulsivity to mention a few. ADHD is chronic which means it can last for years and be lifelong, treatments such as medication, seeing a specialist (psychiatrist) and therapy can help the condition but cannot cure it.
Bipolar Disorder or manic depression
My sister once told me about a friend she had who liked to claim he was bipolar because he thought it was cool as in cool kid illness LOL, brethren, being bipolar is not cool. It’s also a mental disorder that causes periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated moods i.e they can have extreme moods of feeling really high, very active and euphoric (manic) or feeling really low (depression). Some symptoms include elevated moods, loss of interest, sadness, crying, excess desire for sex, self harm, delusion, false belief of superiority, agitated depression or paranoia, difficulty falling asleep or excess sleepiness, weight gain or weight loss. Bipolar disorder can also be treated by therapy, medication, supportive care and seeing a specialist. It’s also chronic with the exact cause unknown.
Okay this is another common mental disorder in Nigeria, it’s not very common but common nonetheless with over one hundred cases per year (this is according to the college of medicine, university of Ibadan). Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behaviour and failure to understand reality, some of it’s symptoms include false beliefs, unclear and confused thinking, hearing voices that others do not, reduced social engagement, paranoia, hallucination, frenzied speaking or speech disorder, fatigue and fear. Treatment is lifelong and includes medication, therapy and seeing a specialist.
The exact cause of schizophrenia isn’t known but environmental factors (such as cannabis use during adolescence, certain infections, poor nutrition during pregnancy) and genetic factors (such as a variety of common and rare genetic variants) and altered brain chemistry and structure may play a role. If you want to know more about schizophrenia you should see the movie – A Beautiful Mind.
Again very common in Nigeria, it is a group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear, anxiety is a worry of future events and fear is a reaction to current events. Example of Anxiety disorders are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Panic attacks. Some symptoms include worrying, fast heart rate and shakiness, to be diagnosed symptoms typically need to be present for at least six months because other problems like cannabis use may result in similar symptoms. Treatment of anxiety disorder include lifestyle changes, therapy and of course medication.
Anxiety disorders are treatable by a medical professional.
Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression
This a mental health disorder characterized by persistent depressed mood and is often accompanied by low self esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, low energy and pain without a clear cause, some other symptoms include inability to experience pleasure, worthlessness and self hatred, hallucinations, irritability, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, fatigue, physical complaints, decreased appetite resulting in weight loss and forgetfulness. Clinical depression is treatable by a medical professional and it’s treatment include therapy, medication, medical procedure and seeing a specialist.
So guys I’ve been able to select five common mental illnesses in Nigeria although there are still others like Autism spectrum disorder, Dementia, Eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge eating), Borderline personality disorder and Body dysmorphic disorder to mention a few, I can’t mention them all I don’t want to sleep here😅 but it is also important to know that mental health disorders with effective medication and therapy can be managed and in some cases treatable.
I urge you all to make time available to read on these mental disorders. Awareness is important as it is the first step to breaking stigma.
My final thoughts on mental health disorders; We need to stop believing that supernatural powers and evil spirits cause mental illnesses so that our attitude towards mentally disturbed people can change positively, now I’m not saying that there’s a zero percent chance that the problem is spiritual I’m saying most of the time it isn’t. Mental illness is an illness, a disease and can affect persons of any age, race, religion and income. It doesn’t occur as result of personal weakness, lack of character and poor upbringing, it isn’t self inflicted and self deserving. We need to put an end to the unending widespread stigmatization of mentally disturbed people and find ways to support them.
There is need for mental health literacy on all levels of education. Let’s educate ourselves about the illness, reach out for support and support groups, treat them with respect no matter how symptomatic they are, convey hope and most importantly be calm around them because our actions can influence and impact their symptoms. Let’s also bear in mind that they are still human and should be treated as such.
Thank you so much guys for reading this write up my sole purpose for this is to enlighten and educate, I do hope I’ve been doing that well enough. If you have any thoughts, questions or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below I’d be happy to respond also please share the post if you found it helpful. Thanks again and God bless!