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World Mental Health Day: Promoting Mental Health Awareness in Nigeria

World Mental Health Day: Promoting Mental Health Awareness in Nigeria 


On average, mental health issues affect more than 40 to 45 percent of Nigerians, with over 60 percent of young adults experiencing these challenges. Shockingly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 75 percent of those affected do not receive the necessary treatment.

In Nigeria, mental health problems are often not taken as seriously as they should be, and awareness remains inadequate. Many Nigerians harbor misconceptions, associating therapy solely with severe mental disorders, which hinders widespread access to available therapists in the country.

Mental health is a pressing concern, especially given the increasing economic challenges that continue to push many, particularly emerging adults, into these problems daily. These mental health problems encompass a wide spectrum, from depression and anxiety to bipolar disorder, addiction, phobias, and various conditions affecting thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Here are some suggestions and steps to help address these conditions:

Acknowledge Your Feelings:

When you begin to experience mental discomfort, take the time to identify your emotions and their potential causes. It’s crucial to accept your feelings rather than suppressing or ignoring them. Identifying both the mental condition and its roots is a significant step toward recovery.

Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts 

If by identifying the cause of your mental and emotional distress, you notice they are as a result of negative thoughts, go on to further identify the exact thought; notice what you’re thinking and how it makes you feel; Evaluate the thought, if it’s based on facts, or if it’s a distortion; Reframe the thought. Challenge the negative thought by replacing it with a more positive, accurate, and helpful thought; Visualize the outcome by imagine how you will feel once you successfully challenge the negative thought.

Seek Support:

While access to psychological therapists may be limited, learning how to talk to someone about your struggles is essential. Online therapists, both Nigerian and international, are available for consultation, and there are also non-governmental organizations like the Mentally Aware Nigerian Initiative (MANI), The Human Development Initiative, Nigerian Suicide Prevention Hotline, SURPIN Helpline Nigeria, among others, that offer assistance. If reaching out to experts seems daunting, confiding in someone you trust, even a stranger, can be beneficial.

Address Underlying Factors:

In some cases, biological factors or underlying medical conditions can significantly impact mental health. Focus on treating these physical health issues when they contribute to mental health challenges. Additionally, recognizing stress as a contributor and taking adequate rest is crucial.

Lifestyle Adjustments:

Consider making lifestyle changes that promote wellness. This may involve reducing alcohol consumption, ensuring sufficient sleep, and maintaining a balanced diet. Taking breaks from work or resolving personal relationship issues that negatively affect mental health can also be beneficial.

Nurture Meaningful Relationships:

Building strong and supportive relationships with friends, family, and colleagues can reduce stress and improve your overall health. Connecting with others provides opportunities to share experiences, learn from each other, and offer support during difficult times. Consider setting aside time each week to connect with a friend or family member, or joining a group that shares your interests.

In conclusion, it’s vital for all of us to look out for each other. Recognize potential signs of mental health disorders in those around you, such as withdrawal from social activities, changes in sleep or eating patterns, persistent feelings of hopelessness, and more severe signs like self-harm or hearing voices. By being compassionate and vigilant, we can collectively work toward improving mental health awareness and support in Nigeria.

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