“Does A Perfect Mental Health State Exist?” 6 Nigerian Women Respond
Written by Fareedah Ameen
Caveat: This article does not serve as expert medical advice. It is important to consult your doctor when you notice something is off with your body.
Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. About 1 in 5 women deal with common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Also, Women are more likely to experience risk factors such as:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual harassment or assault
- Burden of being the primary caregiver in the home
- Societal expectations (marriage, childbearing, etc.)
- Gender inequality in office spaces
- Negative body image
- Hormonal changes as seen in premenstrual syndrome, perinatal depression, menopause
In order to collate experiences of women in Nigeria, we asked the following questions to which 6 women answered anonymously:
- How old are you?
- What does Mental Health mean to you?
- How do you protect your emotional wellbeing?
- Do you think there’s enough awareness about Women’s Mental Health?
- If no, what other means can be explored?
- What will you consider the greatest barrier to accessing proper mental health care services as a woman?
- Have you consulted a therapist or mental health care professional before?
- If yes, can you share what the experience was like for you?
- Does a perfect mental health state exist? What will that look like for you?
Our first respondent is a 33-year-old who says mental health means having a clear mind. She protects her emotional well-being by avoiding some people. She has had a pleasant experience with a therapist in the past. She believes education is the greatest barrier to accessing proper mental healthcare services as a Nigerian woman. Having peace of mind represents a perfect mental health state to her.
A 39-year-old woman responds that mental health is ensuring a sound psychological condition of health and she protects her emotional well-being by staying happy all the time. To her, stigmatization is the greatest barrier to accessing proper mental healthcare services and a perfect mental health state will be the ability to relate perfectly with one another.
Our third respondent is a 24-year-old who protects her emotional well-being by listening to music, not staying idle, and being around people that care about her. Mental health to her means being in control of her happiness and on the existence of a perfect mental state, she thinks the body was designed to always have different feelings and being able to balance them matters. She chalks lack of confidentiality to being the greatest barrier to getting access to mental healthcare services.
In response to the question on what mental health means to her, our 21-year-old respondent says “Honestly, I don’t know. It seems like a vague concept concerning a state of mind at peace but at the same time the concept of peace is quite scathing because it doesn’t exist without the absence of it.” She protects her emotional well-being by indulging in activities that keep her dopamine levels hope and surrounding herself with people that can be distracting or totally removing herself from the situation. To her, economic disadvantage is the greatest barrier to mental healthcare access, she doesn’t think a perfect mental health state exists and adds “The chaos of the end is an enveloping concept but it’s a necessary one. We will always be scared, worried and anxious about one issue of the other. Life isn’t a happy-go place.”
“Mental health to me, means everything that constitutes emotional, and physiological well-being” says the fifth respondent who is 23 and she protects her emotional well-being by: Saying No, setting boundaries and being intentional about self-care. The greatest barrier to accessing proper mental healthcare services as a woman is access to information and finances because mental health services are hard to find and expensive. She says “I don’t think there’s a perfect mental health state, but it’s better where there’s less stress and less anxiety”.
Finally, our last respondent is a 25-year-old who simply defines mental health as psychological well-being. She has a number of ways by which she guards herself emotionally and some of these include: Setting clear boundaries, being honest with herself, having and following a value system, being gentle and accountable to herself, protecting herself from harmful or triggering situations. Cost is the greatest barrier to mental health care accessibility as a Nigerian woman and she describes her experience with a therapist as very beneficial. Therapy helps her get answers to many questions and know and appreciate herself better. “A perfect mental health state doesn’t exist but a healthy mental health state exists,” she concludes.
Unsurprisingly, they all agreed that there is not enough awareness about Women’s Mental Health and suggested other means that can be explored including:
- Establishment of more dedicated avenues that talk about women’s mental health
- Easily accessible therapy
- Financial aid to economically disadvantaged women
- Conversations on mainstream media not just social media to get people to inculcate the habit of checking on people around them
- Educating people on pointers that signify poor mental health and what to do about it
- Regular sensitization programs
Here is a list of some mental health organizations who are doing great jobs in creating awareness and providing helpful tips and mental health services in Nigeria and Africa:
- She Writes Woman (Instagram)
- Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (Instagram)
- The Family Place NG (Instagram)
- Sane Mind NG (Instagram)
- Nguvu Health (Instagram)
- Renovare Mental Health Initiative (Instagram)
Remember, mental health conditions are NOT adjectives.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this article.
Fareedah Ameen is a final year Medical Student at the University of Ilorin. She enjoys reading articles and fictional books, making mocktails and creating content. You can connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.
Edited by Oluwatobiloba Ganiyu
Female, Editor, Medical student, ambivert, goofball, Christian. Always interested in learning new things. Connect with Oluwatobiloba on Instagram.
Published by Yetunde Onafuye
Yetunde is a storyteller, podcaster, and a graduate student with interest in the social and political history of post-independence Africa. She’s also the co-lead editor at Sisterly HQ. In her free time, she reads and reviews books, engages in social volunteering, and watches tons of dramas and TV shows. Connect with Yetunde on LinkedIn and Instagram.