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 Ebojielu Samuel

Globally, about 264 million people suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of disability, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety and depression are the leading mental health conditions around the world amongst many others such as Bipolar disorder, eating disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia and others. Any condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior or mood can be termed as mental illness. 

Most times, people try not to talk about, or feel uncomfortable talking about mental health especially in this part of the world as a result of our cultural and religious orientation, but mental health issues are common than how we see them. These mental health conditions play a role in our daily activities from our ability to relate to others, productivity, performance in school/office/work place and the way we approach issues.

Mental illness can be broadly divided into two categories which are Any Mental Illness(AMI) and Serious Mental Illness(SMI). AMI is a mental health condition that involves all mental illness ranging from mild to moderate and even severe cases; while SMI is a mental health condition that involves serious function impairment and interferes with the patient's major life activities. Recent researchs shows that the highest percentage of people affected by mental illness are within the age of 18-25.

Mental health and Mental Illness (Mental health conditions) are different entities but are often used in place of each other. A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his/her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his/her community is known as Mental health according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Mental illness is when one is diagnosed with a mental disorder. Not being diagnosed with a mental disorder doesn't necessarily mean such person might not have poor mental health. It's a misconception to think that good mental health is being in a good mood at all times, being happy or self confident rather it is about coping and living well despite problems.

In Nigeria, there are only eight federal psychiatric hospitals with an unverified population of about 200 million people and an area of 923,768 km square meters. It is undeniable to say that mental health in Nigeria is poor, one can even see it as an understatement. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) one in four Nigerians suffers from a mental illness which is about 50 million Nigerians. 

The first mental health policy in Nigeria was formulated in 1991. It's components include advocacy, promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. Bills have been introduced by senators into the National Assembly but it is yet to be passed into law. Even, the policies formulated to address mental health issues in the country are not been implemented as it seems to be non-existent.

About 4% of the 2021 national budget was allocated to the Health sector. So one can say that the federal government budgeted #2700 for each citizen's health throughout the year and decided to allocate about 309 million naira to the National Assembly. We really need help concerning the Mental health of some Nigerians. Over the years, our cultural and religious background have played a major role in the way we perceive what mental health is all about which has contributed to the poor mental health system of the Nigerian society at large. It is believed among most Nigerians that mental health conditions are spiritual hence, should be taken care of by spiritual doctors.

Mental health conditions can be traced to family history. It may also be caused by psychological, biological, environmental factors and when the neural networks involving naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of the brain and body are impaired, the functions of nerve receptors and nerve systems change leading to depression and other emotional disorders. This is known as brain chemistry. Some risk factors of developing mental illness includes childhood trauma, traumatic events, negative thoughts, exposure to toxic chemicals before birth, drugs and alcohol. The more the risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop a mental illness. These factors also affect how severe their symptoms will be.

It's no brainer that the novel coronavirus has contributed negatively to the Nigerian society and caused disruption in global activities, businesses, trades, movements and academic activities. The south-west region in Nigeria was the highest hit of Covid-19 of all the six geopolitical zones.

Amidst little or no funding, cultism, corruption, sex for grades and examination malpractices that the Nigerian Education system has strived to cope with for decades, the emergence of  Covid-19 in Nigeria made the system grapple as it was taken aback by the pandemic. Students in the Education system needed to deal with the psychological effects of the pandemic on their mental health especially those in public tertiary institutions. Since the pandemic, a higher percentage of students have been through one or more mental health condition. The result of the online mental health test I took told me I had mild depression all thanks to the pressure and unhealthy conditions I had to deal with as a student of the unstructured Nigerian Education system.

Little or no attention is paid by most employers about the mental health of their workers. The mental health of their workers actually affects the productivity of the organization and can help it thrive even in competitive environment. The working conditions can also influence the mental health of the workers but not enough to maintain a good mental health. Social institutions should make mental health services available and accessible for people. As the public awareness on mental health continue to grow in Nigeria, with all hands on deck, the country will attain a good mental health system.

As there are no vaccines for mental health conditions, following some steps will serve as preventive measures. Seeking for help when you need to and trying to speak to people close to you about how you feel, involving in activities that ease off stress and keep the mind relaxed, treating yourself with respect, avoiding self-criticism, knowing your self-worth, surrounding yourself with people that are supportive and building a healthy relationship with them, avoiding drugs and alcohol will play major roles in keeping the mental health in good shape.


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