On Mental Health Awareness In Nigeria.

Last weekend while working on marketing research for a business account, I stumbled upon a few articles on mental health. Reading through these insightful articles, I started thinking about how random it is that people and organizations in Nigeria hardly want to discuss mental health. Although I’m glad that recently there has been some form of awakening about the issue, I still understand that it’s probably a very small percent of the Nigerian population that is interested in talking about it.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

The organization goes further to describe mental health as fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. Several factors can affect the state of an individual’s mental health; Persistent Socio-Economic Pressures, Stressful Work Conditions, Social Exclusion, Unhealthy Lifestyle, Physical Ill Health, Rapid Social Change, Gender Discrimination, Violence, Sexual Violence, Human Rights Violation and sometimes Genetics.

As an individual living in Nigeria, some of the factors partially define the intricacies of our daily lives. The effects of poor mental health often include Alienation from activities, Consistent Anger, Fear, Sadness, Feelings of helplessness, Depression, and Suicide. It’s one reason why it’s quite alarming that very few people are vested in talking about mental health in Nigeria.

Statistics show that about 7 Million Nigerians suffer from depression. There is also a high rate of suicides in Nigeria. Nigeria was ranked fifteenth highest suicide rate in the world (and seventh in Africa) according to the World Health Organisation’s age-standardized statistics.

There surely is considerable neglect of mental health issues in Nigeria. A great example is explained in WHO-AIMS 2006 Report about Nigeria’s Mental Health Policy document which was formulated in 1991 to address mental health issues and its components such as advocacy, promotion, prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. It’s quite shocking that since its formulation, no revision has taken place and no formal assessment of how much it has been implemented has been conducted.

Furthermore, the bill for the establishment of a Mental Health Act which was introduced in 2003 and re-introduced to the National Assembly in 2013, is yet to be passed into law. Quite alarming, isn’t it?

I believe Mental Health Awareness is not an issue that should be largely ignored in the Nigerian society especially in an era where the economy is basically crawling for progress. Particularly in the business world where we make decisions that can affect another person’s activities, It’s not okay that we choose not to be outspoken about the issue and will rather wallow in secrecy.

I obviously applaud organizations like Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) that have developed initiatives to create this awareness. I do hope more individuals and organizations alike will proffer initiatives that can generate more awareness on a larger scale.

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