#YNaijaNonBinary: Let’s talk about mental health

People going to therapists or talking about their mental health is a thing I mostly see on TV shows. Foreign TV shows. Therapy remains a low key taboo topic in our culture.  When it comes to mental health issues, there is a general consensus to either face it alone or at most, talk to your spiritual leader, family, or friends.   This makes no sense because when we have issues with our physical health, we are meant to go a doctor or medical specialist but when we have mental health issues, we are meant to suck it up.

Before going further, It’s important to note that mental disorders have been reduced to symptomatic presentations of mid to late stage dementia or schizophrenia, which presents as loss of memory, erratic behaviour and  scavenging in the streets. Mental disorder includes anxiety disorders which manifests as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias, depressionbipolar disorder, eating disorders, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

According to a WHO report, one in eight Nigerians are suffering from some sort of mental illness, and fewer than 10% of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need, and the country currently ranks 15th in the worldwide suicide frequency rate.

It doesn’t help matters that based on the latest budget proposal documents that are presently with the parliament and awaiting final presidential approval, the federal government is proposing to cut the nation’s basic healthcare funding by 43% from its original 2020 budget to N25.6 billion and a less than impactful amount from this figure would be going to mental health. The government can surely do better but beyond what the government is doing, how can we ensure mental health becomes a priority in our everyday lives and de-stigmatize seeking therapy.

Employers, parents, and people in power should ensure that providing an environment and culture where mental health is a priority. Such an environment is non-judgemental, gives room for free expression of different opinions,  listens, and accepts that people who talk about their mental health are not seeking attention but support. Health insurance companies need to include mental health care and therapy sessions in their services. Therapy isn’t limited to only traumatic life experiences but could help people in regards to navigating their life daily. It also does not make a person weaker to seek therapy in comparison to not trying it. In fact, people who decide to embrace therapy understand themselves on a mental level that’s deeper than most because they are self-aware enough to know they need help.

In regards to preferring to talk about mental issues with a spiritual leader or family over a therapist. Family and spiritual leaders might be a great moral support pillar, but in matters regarding receiving advice, it is best to get advice from someone who does not know you. In that way, you are receiving vital information not clouded by emotions or preconceived notions of your personality or your situation.

Although friends and family are great moral support systems, the truth is that when it comes to needing advice, it is better to receive that advice from someone who does not know you. That way you are receiving information about what you need from a a trained, unbiased professional who doesn’t have any preconceived notions of who you are or about your situation.

Lastly, it’s important to make your mental health a priority. It’s amazing the amount of mental abuse people accept all in the name of ‘hustling’, love, or in the hope of a better tomorrow. We must know when to speak up, disengage, or reach out for help when our mental health is at stake. Suffering and smiling is not a superpower.


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