The rambles of traditional medicine sellers through loudspeakers is the hallmark of Arewa markets. We buy a myriad of regimens to strengthen our physical health, but the noun ‘mental health’ sounds unfamiliar to our intellects. To the average northerner, the mentally ill are those communally neglected people that are left to roam the streets with rags, eating insects, worms, and whatever is within their reach in the garbage and dumping sites. Well, you will no longer look at mental health from this angle after reading this post.
Are We Mentally Healthy?
Mental Health simply means emotional well-being, the abilities of a person to cope with the normal stresses of life, look at its positive side, and do what is beneficial to his/her immediate community.
Research has shown that one out of four people suffers from one mental condition or the other. This means, if there are 8 people in your family, 2 are probably mentally ill. One might ask, why don’t we see them eating sand or greeting the clouds? It’s because mental illness is a wider scope than what we imagine it to be.
My question goes; are you always able to cope with normal stress, see positivity, and do what is beneficial to others? We all might be patients at some point in life I suppose.
Our Attitude to Mental Health
An average northerner does not count mental disorders among the major causes of physical ailments and morbidity. Also, we do not believe that western medicine can cure or manage mental disorder patients, hence, we associate mental illnesses with entirely different causes. For example; children with attention deficit disorders struggle with understanding concepts in school and we call them dullards.
People with schizophrenia hear, see, and react to hallucinations. They relate to subjects that aren’t real. For that, we blame sorcery, witchcraft, and jinn possession. Amnesia, loss of memory, dementia, continuous loss of cognitive function are commonly believed to be caused by magical attacks from village people.
Those suffering from social phobia find it hard to relate with others. They prefer staying in solitude, we tag them arrogant, ‘masu-ji-ji-dakai’. If they try socializing, they end up with anger due to anxiety disorders and we say they are jarababbu.
Someone afflicted by depression is tagged ‘mai-ƙunci’, which after reaching the limit might opt for suicide and get judged by the community as someone that has no trust in Allah’s plan (maras tawakkali).
Read: How To Manage Depression
Whilst all the above are boldly written conditions and many more could be prevented by family support or managed by doctors, due to our unawareness and negligence we subject the patients to stigma and inhumane treatments.
How We Handle The Victims
Most families regard it as an insult to have a mentally ill individual as their member. Others imagine it to be a curse upon the lineage. For that, families and companions relate to the mentally ill in the following inhumanely ways:
1. Turning deaf ears to the stress, and not giving a damn about the emotional stability of fellows.
2. Restriction of amnesia and dementia patients from meeting friends and guests in a bid to conceal their situation.
3. Chaining schizophreniacs with shackles to restrict movement and ensure the privy of their status
4. Taking a panic attack and epilepsy (not purely psychiatric) patients to traditional or religious rehabilitation centers, where they get whippings and incantations. Such a pity.
5. Giving food leftovers to the mentally ill, abandoning them to sleep on the streets; some even get raped in the process. Hell!
Here is the Good News…
When talking about physical health, we all know that some diseases are curable while others are manageable but none is invincible. The same can be said about mental health. By consulting your primary care physician, you can be referred to a mental health specialist for proper treatment of your own or your loved ones’ mental disturbances.
The common signs of mental disorders include;
1. Extreme anger and frustration
2. Difficulty to sleep or sleeping excessively
3. Excessive fear of events or imaginary situations
4. Excessive eating or depressed appetite
5. Inattention, depressed mood, and fatigue
6. Alternating episodes of fanaticism and depression
7. Restlessness for not taking a drug or drink
8. Hearing, seeing, believing, or reacting to things or events that are not real.
When you experience any of the above signs or notice any of them with a friend or family member, you shouldn’t delay consulting doctors for the condition to be curbed before getting it gets worse. Just like malaria, mental illnesses are trials one should not be ashamed of suffering, seek out for proper care. Please.
Also, you should keep an eye on this space for subsequent posts about mental health awareness and improvements.
Healthy mind, healthy life!