We need to have more conversations around mental illness.
It’s 3.11am in the morning and my phone is blowing up, I curse under my breath and pick up. It’s my friend Clarine and she’s breathing heavily and crying intermittently. The sleep clears from my eyes and I’m struggling to decode what she’s saying. She says; ‘I’m calling to let you know I love you Yommie, but I can’t do this life thing anymore, bye’. My whole body starts shaking, my arms are trembling, I try calling her back and her phone is switched off. So, I go through my call log and see that she’s been calling since 2:30am, I’m scared out of my mind.
By this time, I’m wide awake, trying to reach anyone who could get to her in time before I do. For context; this is someone I’ve known most of my life, I’ve always regarded her as very happy and comfortable. She has a nice apartment, lovely car, a good job all before the age of 30. That should make anyone happy right? Boy I was wrong, very wrong. Mental health is no respecter of age, tribe, religion, sex, class or social status. Anyone can suffer from a mental illness.
THE CURRENT MENTAL ILNESS STATISTICS IN NIGERIA
A lot of people often wrongly believe that mental health issues do not apply to the average Nigerian. They believe that the only people who suffer from mental health issues are the mad men on the road. The ones who probably ran mad from ‘igbo’ (marijuana). First, this is such a wrong assumption and in fact, according to an Al Jazeera report, one in four Nigerians suffers from a mental illness. The statistics are alarming and I cannot count how many times I have gotten calls similar to the one I spoke about earlier.
Nigeria has Africa’s highest rates of depression, and ranks as the 15th country in the world. When it comes to suicide, according to the World Health Organization, there are less than 150 psychiatrists in this country of 200 million. WHO estimates that fewer than 10 percent of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need. This is terrible.
YOMMIE’S NOTE TO YOU
Above all, suicidal ideation, anxiety, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, eating disorders… are more prevalent here in Nigeria are more prevalent than we think. Nobody is immune, mental illness doesn’t affect a specific type of person or individual, doesn’t care about who you are or what you do. Hell! even babies have mental illnesses. We need to open our minds to start having these conversations. If you’re struggling, please reach out, you deserve love and support. You deserve to live a beautiful and wholesome life. You deserve joy and I’m rooting for you to come out better on the other side.
It’s imperative for us to check in on people around us, let’s check in on the life of the party. These days we live such individualistic lifestyles, we don’t stop to reach out to people around us, we need to do better as a society. Let’s spread love and joy, let’s listen to people we care about, their joys, their fears, their anxieties. Let’s learn to stretch out our hands to others and say I’m here and really mean it. No man is an island of his own. Stop saying people are fine based on their social media posts, put in the extra effort to call or text.
I know you must be wondering about my friend, Clarine. Most importantly, she pushed me to write this. For closure, she was having suicidal ideations and she slit her thighs but she’s better now. She’s happier, she’s an inspiration to me and many others, she sought therapy and she’s happy and thriving. I’m blessed I could be there for her.
Reach out, you might be saving a life. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!
– By Yommie Olusunle