Managing mental illness can be daunting even where access to therapy is easy. And Nigeria is not a place where therapy comes with easy access. Estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the ratio of psychotherapists to population put the number at 1 to over 600, 000 and 1 to over 100, 000 psychologists.
The gravity of those numbers settle fully once you begin to consider the number of Niegrins affected by mental health. Some 20-30% of Nigerians; over 40 million people.
Therapy is like the unpooling of tangled threads to reveal the beauty that exists. What therapy tries to achieve is to give you the tools and strategies to weather whatever is going on in your life whether that is stress, relationship issues or managing a mental health diagnosis.
Sadly, this is and may continue to be a luxury to afford for a while. That however doesn’t mean that all of us who either can’t afford therapy now or ever, God forbid, can’t find other ways to cope.
That a semblance of sanity reigns in the country is strong proof that many have figured ways to manage their mental health struggles.
We spoke to 3 Nigerians to find out how they cope daily and in the events of major crises.
Fauza (31, F)
“Prayer and positivity are my top go-to when all I want is daily reassurance. My mother instilled that in me, because as kids whenever you complain about anything she instructs you to pray. For the positivity, that is a self-taught thing I do by writing down things I’m proud of or grateful for.
“When it comes to major crises I just shutdown and allow my friends in. They have a way of holding me just over water till I overcome.”
Gift (26, M)
“I just keep as much physical and emotional distance from people and I am often fine. I take medication most of the time, my anxiety is too crippling otherwise.”
Ann (35, F)
“I actually do therapy weekly, the no-cost kind, unless you consider burning my fuel to meet my friends at our favourite hangout place every month a cost.
“We agreed 2 years ago to make our circle a group therapy collective. Outside our weekly hangouts we meet every month to unload. It is the perfect pick me up from a stressful life, from mild depression and especially from loneliness.
“I wish more people will do the same.”
This is far from exhaustive, but we will continue to share in subsequent write-ups for the rest of May – which is Mental Health Month.
*Names have been altered to protect anonymity