This survey was conducted among 1000 respondents in the following Six States of Nigeria; Lagos, FCT, Kano, Enugu, Bauchi and Rivers using Face-to-Face (CAPI) to capture the data. The respondents were randomly selected in proportion to each state population figures using the 2016 National Population Bureau census figures.
The highlights of the results are detailed below.
The myths and stigma surrounding Mental health in Nigeria is a discussion we need to have in the open with 39% of the respondents mentioning Madness as the first thing that comes to their minds when they hear mental health. The other top two words that come to mind for the respondents when thinking of mental health are Psychological Wellbeing (31%) and mental instability (30%).
The topic of Mental Health in Nigeria is hardly ever discussed due to the lack of information from relevant stakeholders, and this lack of information leads to the perpetuation of many dangerous myths about the topic. The fact about the matter is that 1 in every 4 Nigerians suffer from mental illness.
Here are some of the myths surrounding mental health in Nigeria today;
- People with mental illnesses are violent/dangerous,
- Mental illnesses are as a result of demonic possession,
- People with mental illnesses can snap out of it if they try hard enough,
- People with mental illnesses can’t live normal lives, and
- Mental illnesses are rare.
Differentiating between facts and myth, the chances are we are surrounded by highly active and productive members of society who are also quietly battling mental illnesses. Records from various published documents on mental health have shown that 1 in every 4 Nigerians suffer from mental illness. People with mental illness can live normal lives with a combination of medication and therapy, so it is rude to tell someone with clinical depression to “snap out of it”, like they’re just having a bad day. You’re belittling the person’s struggle, which is due to chemical imbalances (a thing the person can’t control by themselves). It’s rude and ignorant. Most Nigerian parents think mental health problems are a result of spiritual warfare. Hence, if someone/their child starts exhibiting signs of mental illness, the first thing you hear is “You need to be close to God” or “When was the last time you prayed to God” or “We need to go and see a Pastor”. Please get a doctor for that person/your child and not the team of exorcists from the church.
The stigma associated with mental illness in Nigeria is highly associated with the myths as indicated above.
What do most Nigerians think when they hear mental illness? And what was the reasoning behind their thinking?
The top 3 words that most Nigerians mentioned in the process of this research were (1) Madness – 39% (2) Psychological Wellbeing – 31% (3) mental instability – 30%. Here are some of the reasons behind their thinking for madness;
“I believe any one associated with that word “MENTAL HEALTH” is considered insane”
“People that are sick and can’t understand what is happening in their environment”
“When you say mental then he or she is unstable meaning different grade of madness Grade 1 to 10 as far as am concerned”
“Because any mental person is consider to be a mad person”
“Because the person is always violent and behaves abnormally.”
It is clear from the verbatim above that most Nigerians think of people they see on the street who always wore a bathrobe or dirty cloths and talk to himself/herself as a mentally ill, but I think of those who battle through the mental illness to live as normal a life as possible. I also think of the people who suffer in silence. Those who are afraid to seek help or think they are beyond help. Those who pretend everything is fine when they are clearly suffering. Those who believe they are fine and don’t need help when they exhibit many signs of being miserable and chronically depressed.
As you can see, so many things come to mind when you think of mental illness, but are you aware of the following facts.
Did you know…
…anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness?
…depression is one of the most common and well-known mental illness?
…you’re more likely to be diagnosed with certain mental illnesses if a family member has been diagnosed with it?
…quite a lot of mentally ill people in Nigeria end up in jail or prison because of a lack of treatment?
…schizophrenia has its own stigma that most diagnosis professionals are reluctant to give?
“STAND UP TO STIGMA” – Let’s talk about MENTAL HEALTH