We are all mad… think about it. Some psychiatrists have said that insanity occurs on a spectrum, and any one of us can occur on it. And this ranges to extreme mental illnesses to problems like anger management and depression. Mental health is often sidelined in Nigeria. It’s fascinating to observe how we treat the vulnerable in our society. We often marginalize them and find it difficult to understand their plight. But maybe if we stop to think that we are all vulnerable, then maybe we can begin to change the conversation.
I remember a scene that occurred in my dorm room during my service year. One evening, on returning from my gallivanting and loitering I met a kerfuffle in my room. A young lady had been pushed out of my room; a small crowd had formed around her. A group of young women were packing her bags, ready to throw them out. There was loud name-calling by another group. Initially, I was dismissive of the situation; of course this was no joke – (another group of people doing “the most”). Then I went over to see what was going on. I was promptly informed that a witch had been living in my room and by the grace of God had just been discovered. Soon after, administrators at the camp were at the scene and dispersed the crowd. Sadly, I am not sure how it ended. But that made unforgettable impression in my head.
I began to ask questions, I learned from an old school mate of the young woman that was attacked earlier; she had a history of erratic behaviors. It finally occurred to me, she was mentally ill. This is when the spark was ignited; we have to change the conversation. This story highlights unfortunately, how many of the mentally ill in our society today are treated. Mental health has historically been neglected in this society; we often are quick to categorize ill people as having occult or diabolical problems. This story is sadly not an anomaly. It is even easier for us to be outraged about this because it is quite obvious. But, what about the more subtle cases of depression?
There are many problems that plague our society today, a complex one that I have become passionate about is mental illness. Let us stop seeing ourselves as people who are superior to the mentally ill, but as people who are vulnerable to mental illness for various reasons much like physical illness. We could choose to keep making disparaging remarks about the mentally ill or begin to take actions about our mental health and begin to change the conversation about this condition. The next time you are tempted to dismiss an unstable man or woman walking on the street or become frightened pause and think again, it could very well be someone you know. We must begin to do something as this is a country with crisis in mental health.
Written By Odinaka Ezeobele
Odinaka’s day job involves working in an accounting firm were she specializes in providing assurance services for energy, utilities and mining companies. She enjoys reading and writing in her free time. She is an avid student of history and is passionate about the treatment of mental illness in our society. She likes to opine on various subjects. She is the Chief Content Manager at Nigerian-ly Speaking.