There is an increase in mental health awareness across the county from issues of domestic violence, suicides, homicides, depression and schizophrenia, even though there’s much more to do regarding mental health promotion.
According to exclusive data from the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba, for the past 18 years, Paranoid Schizophrenia has been the most common mental disorder amongst residents of the country’s commercial nerve-centre, Lagos.
I had a chat with Sir Ferdinand Anikwe, the DG of the Centre For Black And African Civilisation, CBAAC and former Permanent Secretary, Enugu State Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs.
He is well versed in public matters – with degrees in Political Science Education, Public Administration, and Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, as well as a Doctoral Research in Public Administration.
He analysed some areas that affect our mental health the most; our economy and our love relationships. He also tied these factors to migration.
Read from him:
Q: How would you assess mental health amongst Nigerians from your point of view?
“The Nigerian political economy has been bedevilled by the vicissitudes of national economic challenges.
“As a result of this, it has extended its impact on the Nigeria psyche.
“Many of our people are no longer as focused as they were in terms of what is supposed to be the general value of the society.
“The real Nigerian value system us been affected by the downturn of our economy.
“In the early days, there were things people were looking up to like going to the university, getting a job and growing into civil service.
“Many didn’t want to go on self-employment or self-survival but have been compelled out of sheer challenges. Many offices are no longer there for people to come and work.
“If you didn’t plan yourself as a self-employed person to engage in business, build proposals and get into contacts, you are now forced to do it but it doesn’t augur well for such people.
“Many of those who have been pushed into the self-employment opportunity accepted it as a condition that has become the order of the day; something in vogue.
“Others have not recovered from the former value system and former opinion of the country. These people get into some mental challenges while some even go into psychiatric cases.
“Some stay in between psychiatry and normal persons.
“So, what is happening in the mental health of Nigeria is a function of our socioeconomic challenges. It is not normal.
“There has been a swift from what the young people of Nigeria in the old times where preparing themselves for and what is obtainable today. They say ‘when what you desire is not there, whatever you obtain becomes what you desire’ but we merely say it; it is not an automatic swift.
“Remember that there are things involved like people’s ideas that are passed through institutions of higher learning and apprenticeship and many processes. When it comes automatically and changes sharply, mental challenges can arise. It affects particularly your value system and thinking pattern. It also affects your attitude and confidence building.
“That’s the general way of seeing it. There are some other ways to think about mental health based on love disappointments, for example can raise discordant things about one’s mental health. We cannot take it for granted. There are some young women who have loved someone so much. You know the issue of love and its expression is more of the female than the male side. The females are more affected than the males.
“Some males remain single because one lady or the other, disappointed them but they are more in the minority.
“Some other mental health issues are traceable to the roots one comes from.
“It may not be the diabolic processes that people refer to but because of the crisis of conscience.
“Some people reason that because it is said that from their root, such and such happens, so they end up seeing themselves that way and visiting doctors even before it actually happens.
“The society requires a proper study though I’m talking as a social scientist not as a medical doctor.
“Many of those who say they must go abroad are disappointed in their views of what foreign countries should be when they get to countries like the United States and Great Britain.
“Those are fully ordered societies. If you go in there and think you can break one or two rules to make it, at the end if the day, you find yourself in prison yard and then they come home.
“At the end of the day, they neither caught what they went to America for nor did they stay here to grow with their contemporaries. Then they are disappointed, disillusioned, disorganised and finally dealt with.
“So, those are the sources of the problems of mental challenges one can experience.
“You’ve seen what is happening in Libya, I delivered a keynote address on Trans-Mediterranean Migration. I went to town.
“I spoke at the Umar Yar Adua University in Katsina and I was surprised they didn’t use it in any papers. We actually identified the causes of this problem, the problems of Nigeria and why people move about and the way to reduce them.
“Those are the things that have compelled Nigerian mental health to be abnormal today.
“If you conduct the range, those who are in their normal comfort of mental stability will not be more than 50-60%.
“What we’re talking about is associated with high blood pressure. Count four Nigerians and one of them has high blood pressure even at a young age and some of those sicknesses that used to wait for old people in their 60s are now being experienced by those not up to that age.
“It’s still as a result of the harsh economic condition that Nigerians find themselves in.
“I am talking as a social analyst and these are issues obtainable in the contemporary Nigerian society.”