Mental Health Care Awareness in Nigeria

Instead of seeking professional medical attention, this frequently resulted in people with mental disorders being misunderstood, mistreated, or exposed to alternative treatments like prayer, traditional healing, or solitude.


by Shine Alagba

Nigerians face mental stress due to economic challenges like unemployment and inflation, political instability and violence, and limited access to healthcare and education. Urban overcrowding, environmental issues, and societal pressures also contribute to their stress. Additionally, inconsistent access to basic amenities and high crime rates exacerbate their daily struggles.

A confluence of socioeconomic, religious, and cultural variables shapes Nigerian’s perceptions of mental health and mental health care. Mental health problems have historically carried a significant amount of stigma, with many people seeing them through the lens of superstition, spirituality, or moral weakness. Instead of seeking professional medical attention, this frequently resulted in people with mental disorders being misunderstood, mistreated, or exposed to alternative treatments like prayer, traditional healing, or solitude.

Nonetheless, there is a shift in attitude and increased knowledge of mental health in Nigeria, especially among the younger population and those living in cities. An increasingly knowledgeable and accepting perspective of mental health concerns is being fostered by the work of non-governmental groups, mental health advocates, and increased media coverage.

The Mental Health Act of Nigeria, enacted in 2021, improves the mental health care system by replacing the outdated Lunacy Act of 1958 that failed to protect the rights of individuals with mental health issues. This act emphasizes patient rights, humane treatment, and non-discrimination, ensuring access to mental health services.

However, there are still barriers to accessing these services because of a lack of infrastructure, insufficient financing, and a shortage of mental health professionals.

Our minds need as much attention as our bodies. When the body gets sick, it is common sense to allow it to heal by resting, taking home remedies, or going to the doctor. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for our minds. Instead, when a mind is fatigued or strained, it is not handled properly.

So, how does one take care of one’s mind?

Keeping a journal and practicing meditation are easily attainable and reasonably priced, improving coping skills for stressful situations and emotional challenges.

Journaling is an activity where people can better process their emotions, reflect on their lives, and understand their behavior and mental health by writing about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. By providing a platform for worries and tension to be expressed, journaling can help with anxiety and depression management; it can also support goal-setting progress monitoring and the development of self-awareness and a sense of accomplishment.

Journaling comes in various forms, such as reflective and gratitude journaling. Reflective journaling involves writing about daily experiences, thoughts, and emotions. It also helps individuals process their day, understand their reactions, and gain insights into their behavior and mental state.

Gratitude journaling is when individuals regularly write down things they are thankful for. This practice can shift focus from negative to positive aspects of life, enhancing overall happiness and well-being. It’s known to improve mood and foster a more optimistic outlook.

Meditating promotes relaxation, focus, and a calm mind. Meditation can reduce stress, lower anxiety, and improve overall mental health. Regular meditation can help individuals cultivate a greater sense of presence, emotional regulation, and resilience to life’s challenges.

Meditation has a variety of practices, each with its special advantages and applications. Mindfulness meditation focuses on present-moment awareness, while loving-kindness meditation cultivates compassion. Mantras are used in transcendental meditation to achieve deep relaxation, where guided meditation offers organized visualization.

Meditation can also come in the form of prayer. When individuals are in a deep spiritual space, they can connect with their thoughts better and understand clearly what they want so they may talk to God about it.

However, these are only small-term methods to help relieve mental stress. For a better release, see a therapist. A therapist can allow an individual to speak their mind freely and even dig out things about themselves that they had no clue about. If the therapist believes that the individual should get diagnosed for medication, they will direct you to a psychiatrist.

There is nothing wrong with medicating your mind; it is the same as medicating your body. If mental stress gets in the way of daily activities and small methods to relieve that stress do not help, it is best to medicate.

It is the same as wearing a brace and taking painkillers if one has a bad knee.

Persecondnews went out on the streets of Abuja to ask questions concerning mental health care. Check out the YouTube video on the Persecondnews channel below

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