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.

7 replies added

  1. Walter October 13, 2015 Reply

    I have actually pondered this thing a number of times in the past. One time, I was walking along the road and saw a man in rags muttering and walking by himself.
    Clearly, a mad man, right?
    But then I asked myself, based on the documentaries and movies I’d seen, what if this man is not as fully blown insane as the Nigerian society has dismissed him to be? There are a number of mental illnesses that with extra care, one can be made to recover from. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia… people can still be functioning citizens with these illnesses, but then our society doesn’t hesitate to abandon them and condemn them to a further spiralling into their ailment.
    It’s sad really. Very very sad.

    • Chisom October 13, 2015 Reply

      I remember how growing up, we were taught that all mad people bite – that is how they transmit the ‘bug’ of insanity. We ran for our lives every time one was around. But what if they were not mad? Just sick. What if … ?

      The biggest loss of over-sabi for humanity is the ones we leave behind.

  2. Fifi October 13, 2015 Reply

    I’d prefer to focus on depression cos I that’s the most common. Most Nigerians still believe its a white man’s sickness even when it keeps staring us boldly in the face. Its unfortunate our psychiatric medicine still has a very long way to go. We need serious awareness creation.

    • Chisom October 13, 2015 Reply

      My worry is that even though our medicine teaches it in school, some foundational part of even the Nigerian doctor allows him to still think, “they needs deliverance” every time he is met with a case of depression. Really sad.

  3. Yemie October 13, 2015 Reply

    This is such a timely post owing to the fact that October 10 is World Mental Health Day! I’ve read in the dailies in the last couple of weeks, how certain indivuduals plagued with mental illness, got tired and frustrated with their lots and conditions, choosing therefore to end it all by commiting suicide! One plunges into a well, a graduate who’d been undergoing treatment but kept relapsing and the other, hung himself! The moment their loved ones looked away; they resorted to the extreme measure of suicide and they succeeded too, its just pretty disheartening!

    The stigmatization of folks suffering from mental disorder’s deeply-seated in this part of the world where superstitions and taboos are rife! We demonize them and leave them to their lots! Australia just adopted a new strategy to create awareness and re-orient its citizenry bout mental health, stressing on the need for love and care primarily, before medicare! I hope to see an improvement in that sector and once we can just shed our ‘religious’, not spiritual skin and replace with compassion and humanity, then; we’re well on our way! We’re all vulnerable, noone chose to be plagued by mental illness!

    Thanks for sharing guys, kudos!

    • Chisom October 13, 2015 Reply

      It’s such a sad story, these deaths, and all of young people with otherwise vibrant lives. My hands in the air for whoever is championing that cause in Australia, and kudos to you for drawing that line between ‘religion’ and spirituality. We can know how to confuse their both! kai!

  4. Mazeli October 16, 2015 Reply

    Great piece. You guys have all said what’s on my mind.
    When we stop being fetish and superstitious in this part of the world, then maybe we’ll start seeing change.

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