How do you react to physical illnesses? Do you ignore physical pain, tell your loved one to ‘man it up’ when he has a killer headache, decide to treat yourself when you have diabetes? Or do you go to the hospital and seek professional help.
Now how do you react to psychological diseases? Are you aware that mental illness do as much harm to you and your body as the physical and many physical pain are in fact, a manifestation of the pain that is lodged up in your brain seeking a way to get noticed and treated.
Mental health awareness, in developing countries especially, is just gaining momentum after wreaking harm for years unattended.
Recently in Nigeria there is an appalling surge in the number of suicide and suicidal attempts, murder of spouses, relatives and strangers, terrorism activities and other life threatening acts. Are you aware that over 70% of these acts can be attributed directly (as in the case of suicide) or indirectly (as in the case of terrorist attacks) on mental ill health.
Psychopaths, sociopaths, people with borderline personality disorders and other personality disorders walk, work and live among us (they might even be us), but the lack of awareness on the signs to watch out for and when to get help can make the disorders worse to the point of making them dangerous in the society.
Depression spreads it’s tentacles far and wide, more so because it has found a suitable environment for growth in Nigeria fed by lack of awareness, shunning, pressure, frustration stemming from work, home, marriage life, studies or standard of living.
The lack of empathy makes it that much harder for patients to reach out and the stigma makes it worse when it comes to seeking help. But no one has ever stigmatized people for seeking help with cancer, so why is cancer of the mind any different?
What we need to understand is that mental diseases are diseases like any. What we need people to know is that having them is okay and seeking help is an act of courage. What we need from people is to research, know about the importance of mental health and what to watch out for, know the many different personalities and disorders, observe the people around them and give them a should when they need it.
Because your mental well-being means so much more than you think. It means the world.