Many would say that the world is a madhouse. A crazy place filled with chaos and plenty wahala. All over the world, people are struggling with anxiety, depression, panic disorders, phobias, and other mental illnesses, and many do not know how to get help.
I have had my own share of mental struggles and if there’s one thing that has helped me this far, it is therapy. The importance of therapy cannot be overruled, that is why last year, during the Mental Health Awareness Month, I had a conversation with Amanda Iheme on the Unfettered Podcast.
Amanda Iheme of NDỊDỊ is a psychotherapist cum architectural photographer. Because she has always been curious about how the mind works, she wanted to study neurosurgery at the University of Ibadan, but later opted for psychotherapy in a university in Ghana. By the third year, she was sure this was something she would do for a very long time.
Mental health in Nigeria, through the years, has garnered much acceptance. Unlike before where talking about your mental struggles was met with derision, people are now learning about it, understanding the need for it, and more people are willing to go for therapy.
In the past few years, Nigerians have had their mental health capacity tested in many ways, and there’s been a lot of anguish and anger. The economy has taken a nosedive, the pandemic exacerbated the existing crisis, and inequality has deepened. The #EndSARS protests across the nation and the constant hashtags on Twitter are few of the ways the Nigerian youths have tried, and are trying to communicate their grievances. But these grievances are met with tone-deaf silence and there’s a continued perpetuation of violence and injustice. Production has gone low, we’re in so much debt, we’re getting poorer and poorer, tribal and religious violence is increasing, there’s chaos in the land, and it’s getting harder to breathe. Nigeria is now a tough place to find joy, and the resilience of Nigerians is constantly being tested. One cannot help but wonder how this is affecting the mental health of many Nigerians.
Amanda says that everything is resulting in anger and Nigerians are not particularly good at managing anger. This is true to a very large extent. Look around you, everyone is angry and quick to throw fits, everyone seems to be vile on social media these days, people are voicing their frustrations and respect for one another is being flung outside the window. This anger is metamorphosing into violence. Amanda says this violence doesn’t have to be towards others, a lot of times, it is even violence towards ourselves. There seems to be a war being fought in our own minds and bodies.
How can we remain mentally sane in this chaotic world? Taking responsibility for your mental health and not leaving it to chance is the surest way to remain mentally sane.
In this time where we’re having the feeling of tightness and difficulty is the best time to be the most mentally aware. When you go for therapy, it means you are taking responsibility for your own life, you’re learning how to take back control by becoming aware of yourself, your feelings, your emotions, and that is a major step. When you’re having a panic attack, what do you do? When you find out it is getting difficult to be around people or control your thoughts, how do you take care of yourself?
If you are physically ill, you would go to the hospital, right? You would see a doctor, accept treatment and diligently use your drugs. It is the same for your mind. Sometimes, the way we think becomes very dark and devoid of light or hope. It is moments like this that we need to reach out to a therapist for help. Therapy gives you a better outlook towards your life, it brings hope and light back into your life. It gives you new meaning – something to look forward to.
My conversation with Amanda Iheme was extremely enlightening and eye opening, especially the reminder that if we’re going to get better, we need to be accoutred with the knowledge that we have the power to make our minds better. Many times, we leave our mental health to chance and “e go better”. We become careless with it until we sink deeper and deeper – to a point of no return. This is your reminder that you should actively pursue a better mental health – consoling yourself with “it is well”, “e no better” won’t do. Include mental wellness into your health plan; don’t leave it to chance.