In Nigeria, many look well but are not. Beyond the shiny, smiley demeanors that many wear and the cliched expressions of `it is well,’ ‘by the grace of God,’ `Insha Allah,’ that they mouth, something lurks – something dark and disturbing.
It is not just the paralyzing anxiety that grips many like the curls of a boa constrictor, there is the depression that is persistently dark and well versed in the darkest arts of disguise.
Many Nigerians are sick. Of course, many do not know this because they stay home and suffer, kept away from hospitals and the benevolent gaze of doctors by the forbidding costs of accessing healthcare in Nigeria.
When they die, all manner of suspicions are voiced by their survivors: from African science (whatever that means) to juju to ‘village people’. Yet, many die simply because they are careless or not proactive enough about their health. In a country of millions that has enough troubles to sicken billions, many Nigerians do not keep enough tabs on the toll the Nigerian situation is taking on their bodies.
But of all the constituent parts of the human being, the mind is the most delicate even if it is the most adamantine. Because it is the battlefield, it wears many battle scars and it does not take long for the scars to show up in a country of many interminable challenges.
Occasionally, some who can no longer cope leap into the lagoon in Lagos. Others drink sniper, the highly poisonous agricultural chemical, while many yet hang themselves until the noose squeezes the life out of them.
In a country of many challenges of the kind likely to afflict the mind, many have lost their minds but do not exactly know it because they are not out on the streets yet given that madness as it is known in Nigeria is associated with being out on the street.
Many others, knowing that something is gravely wrong, but finding it extremely difficult to put the finger on what exactly it is, resort to religion. When religion is dragged into the fray, the situation gets even muddier. Because many of those who preside over religious affairs in Nigeria are not mentally healthy themselves, those who come to them clothed with rags depart naked.
Many Nigerians do not pay adequate attention to their mental health. This is only an extension of the scant attention they pay to their health in general. Because mental illness affects and afflicts the mind, delicate as it is, it deserves maximum attention. If only an entire country could take therapy sessions. For many Nigerians, measures aimed at improving mental health remain absolutely necessary.
The country remains a war zone of sorts. One used to hear that Nigerians were among the happiest people on earth. Phrases such as ‘suffering and smiling’ are bandied from time to time to show a people that keep going no matter the odds.
But these things take their toll. What exactly is giant about the giant of Africa remains doubtful. However, there is no doubt that when the discussion turns on fortitude, Nigerians can well hold their own.
Over the years, Nigerians have shown it. With the many man-made challenges that have convulsed the country, fortitude for Nigerians is not just a virtue, it has been central to survival.
With dysfunction in the country gleefully superintended by a derelict government, Nigerians need well-trained psychologists they can always see at entirely reasonable costs. So, the one who no longer knows what to do leaps into the lagoon in Lagos as if in the depths of the dark waters, their problems will disappear.
With bad leadership and the classic signs of a broken country foisting a lot even on Nigerian children, Nigerians need more access to mental healthcare. Nigerians deserve to look after their mental health.
They deserve the facilities to do so.