Mental health in Nigeria from a baby girl’s pov.

Mental health illnesses such as: Depression, schizophrenia, hallucinations, and so on, are terms I became familiar with after I got here. They were all alien terms to me during the time I spent as a Nigerian living in Nigeria.

The familiar word on the street for anyone with mental issues in Nigeria was werey; even in nollywood movies, mental illnesses are so poorly portrayed to the viewers. And most times, it’s spiritual. You only run mad after you’ve been cursed and the likes. This makes you wonder how people that actually battle with mental problems in the real world, among us, in Nigeria are perceived.

A typical werey tears his/her cloths, eats from the bin, is very dirty and unkept and looks like he/she is ready to attack you.

As a child, growing up on the streets of Lagos Island. I can remember running away from these so called wereys. When you sight them from afar, you’ll cross to the other side, the ones that dared to interact with them will be towonijaing — trying to get them riled up.

But everytime that I walked past a werey or see them get stoned and hurled insults at. I always thought to myself. WHERE ARE THEIR FAMILIES?

Shey won o lebi ni? Family members, loved ones, and friends. That should be looking out for them, keeping them off the streets, and ensuring they are well looked after and not getting attacked by a bunch of kids that don’t know any better.

But once again, Nollywood came to the rescue. From these movies, I gathered some theories: maybe they tried to do money ritual and the thing back fired, or they did Ogun against someone and it came back onto them, or maybe someone cursed them unjustly - these ones I always felt sympathy for.

‘'Aww, poor you. What a shame 😔. If only Iya nuru knew you weren't sleeping with her husband'

But the rest was more 👇👇👇👇👇.

Shey they wanted to get rich kiakia. Who knows, they might have even killed an innocent person before they ran mad or they have been planning to (it’s all the same right?) Still an apayan in my eyes. So serves them right.

Never as a child, growing up on the streets of Lagos Island, walking from Macaulay street to Adams Street, encountering these wereys and trying to conjure up a story in my head about why they are 'mad’, did I ever think it could be psychological. It had to be spiritual right? Something something, definitely diabolical.

But on getting here. Enrolled for A levels Psychology and learnt about mood disorders - depression and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia - having hallucinations, delusions, absence of emotions etc. And many more.

When I got to here and found out there was more to the wereys I encountered on the streets than curses

Then I discovered about the psychological aspects of being a werey. I realised that not everyone struggling with mental issues actually becomes a digbolugi. People all around me, as a child then, would have been battling with all kinds of mental problems that even though didn’t result to them 'running mad’, were equally as serious.

Depression is one of the most common mental health problem

"Depression is more than just feeling “down.” It is a serious illness caused by changes in brain chemistry. Research tells us that other factors contribute to the onset of depression, including genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions, stress, grief or difficult life circumstances. Any of these factors alone or in combination can precipitate changes in brain chemistry that lead to depression’s many symptoms." Read more via this link 👇👇👇👇👇

But that takes us to something more important. Are we, as Nigerians, mentally aware? That friend, yes the friend you have that just suddenly cut everyone off and changed her appearance. He/she may not be prouding na. You are there thinking he/she dun change levels. They don’t want to talk to you anymore. They are now gapaing. Maybe they are actually suffering from Depression. They may be having sucidal thoughts. They may be silently crying out for you to reach out to them. They need you.

There are so many undiagnosed mental health issues amongst us. There’s this horrible stigma (in Nigeria) that’s reserved for any mental problems. 'you are depressed? Oti nyilori niyen o’. Some Nigerians may be scared to get a diagnosis because of this stigma. And without a diagnosis your chances of getting adequate treatment is actually slim.

Ejeka kola kuro l'eko cus eko o kola. Depression, Phobias, OCD, having hallucinations, delusions and the rest are actually MENTAL illnesses. Chemical imbalance, low levels of certain neurotransmitters results to some of this mental health disorders. #bewoke. You wanna be woke? Better be woke on the right things.

I’m not saying they can’t curse you to get mad o. Before awon Aye will come for me 😭😭😭😭. All I’m trying to stress out is the fact that these disorders are psychological and/or neurological. And they can be treated - psychotherapy, CBT, drug therapy etc.

Pls seek out a professional if you are having hallucinations, experiencing low moods, having suicidal thoughts etc. You ain't 'running mad'. You ain't abnormal. You ain't alone. 2.6 in 100 people have been diagnosed with depression. It's beyond your control.

We Nigerians need to

  • Join the “woke” train and get ourselves checked out.
  • Eradicate the stigma associated with mental health diagnoses
  • Reach out to one another
  • Be aware of the risk factors and warning signs of suicide

The stories I conjure up on the whys and hows for the Wereys I encounter during my next visit to Nigeria will definitely differ from the diabolically-themed ones I did about a decade ago.

These ones will be more about why and how we as a community have left our people on the streets to be stoned at, hungry and homeless.

Why do we have them roaming on the streets anyways. Why have we neglected them? That could be you or I.

We all need to come together to raise awareness on mental health disorders in Nigeria.