In the year 2022, the one thing that we can all say that we are grateful for is the theory of evolution. It is an absolute blessing that ideas and perspectives are not always written in stone. After a series of experiences, lessons, teachings, and conversations, your perception of something is likely to shift. The thing you used to strongly be against or for, can be shifted to a more beneficial viewpoint when it has been thoroughly explained. All of this goes to say, that mental health has become much more of an imperative topic to take into account in our everyday life. This article will specifically discuss how mental health has been viewed in Nigeria and how it has affected the coping mechanisms of Nigerians.
What is Mental Health?
According to the CDC, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices cdc.gov. With that statement alone, taken directly from the CDC website, just take a minute and envision; and if it can be said for the majority of us, the pressure we have received from our parents with their stern career decisions and preplanned life they have for us. There is so much anxiety and fear of failure that comes with trying to live our parents' lives. Or maybe, if we make it a little more personal; say you grew up in a household where your parents' upbringing has unknowingly impacted your childhood negatively. The point is as Nigerians, we are faced with something or even multiple things that challenge our mental health daily. Unfortunately, this is how mental illness and poor forms of self-care are been passed down through generations because everyone is incognizant of how they are releasing their mental strain. Thankfully it stops with our generation because we are not ones to normalize unhealthy behaviors.
"I can't come & kill myself"
How Have Nigerians coped with mental health?
After doing research, it is sad to say that Nigerians haven't been coping with their mental health conditions in a beneficial way. There aren't plenty of resources for citizens to reach out to get the help they need. Access to mental health facilities is limited because they are only built in major cities, leaving the rural areas aka "trenches" without proper healthcare. The population that makes up these less civilized cities is filled with young adults and children and the younger people are in much more need of this medical attention. Being that there aren't many, if any of these medical institutions, it has resulted in young people misdiagnosing themselves as following up with self-medication.
Studies from 2019 show that 30 percent of Nigeria's population suffers from mental health, and the population totals 181 million people, 30 percent equates to more than 54 million people. These numbers were calculated in 2019, so just imagine how the numbers may have increased during the lockdown caused by Covid-19 and life thereafter. The Nigerian government has not reviewed or renewed any law regarding mental health since 1958. If you're a true Nigerian, that means we ALL should've noticed something; the laws have still been in standing since before we took independence. Can you imagine?! This is how the Nigerian government is getting away with the allocation of 4% of the annual budget to healthcare. In a survey, Nigeria has been ranked the most depressed country in Africa.
How wouldn't we be depressed when our government is not distributing money generously where it is actually needed? How are psychiatrists and doctors who are barely getting paid supposed to take care of thousands of clients with no resources?
There is such a wide aspect on how we can view how our mental health as Nigerians are challenged on a daily, but we are blessed to have the advantage of getting help and indulging in self-care-based activities to improve everyday life. There is a nonprofit organization by the name of MANI (Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative) that combats the negative connotation that comes with mental illnesses to therefore increase awareness of resourceful mental consolidation. MANI was founded in 2016, by Victor Ugo, a medical student who noticed the lack of resources of mental health resources when he faced his challenges through depression.
Forms of self-care
Of course, we will be part of the problem if we do not give a few ways you can ease your mental health. There are countless activities you can partake in to improve your mental health; here are three tips:
1. Declutter your space
Clearing and maintaining the space you spend most of your time in a day will boost your mental health. It can be your form of safe haven, maintained the way you like to hit, with all of your small favorite pieces that all around bring you great energy. You would want to walk into this place and be able to relax and unwind, or if it is a workspace, make it the most convenient work environment for you to produce your best.
2. Filter your Follow
In between work and just everyday life, at least 6-8 hours out of your day is spent on your phones. Continuous switching from Instagram, to Twitter and then laughing the night away on TikTok; it is important to be attentive to the information you're taking in from all these apps. It is EXTREMELY is easy to get wrapped up in the "success" and constant great news from people's lifestyles. It is easy to mindlessly scroll on one of these apps for hours and eventually, it becomes detrimental. You find yourself comparing yourself to people whom you truly know nothing about. In instances like those, it is best to take a step back and set some time apart to filter who it is you follow. Does this person inspire you, Does the things on this page share uplifting news, or is it always drama, and irrelevant things for views? As grown adults that are accountable for our health, this is imperative to sort out.
3. Practice Mindfulness
There are times when your mind can be your own worst enemy, with intruding thoughts that don't necessarily align with the mentally happy and healthy lifestyle you're trying to maintain. It is said that practicing mindfulness helps relieves a ton of stress. Being mindful is being in the moment of whatever it is you're doing and doing it with intent. When you wake up in the morning, be intentional about having a great day, when you're eating a meal enjoy the meal thoroughly, when you're at an event, try and put your phone down and live in the moment.
You can comment on additional self-care tips you use to combat mental stress below!