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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.

She dipped the kitchen towel in a bowl of hot water and placed it on her hand. She winced as the heat seared through her tender flesh. There was a cut and several small injuries on the back of her hand and she couldn’t let anyone see it, especially the people where she was going.

She placed a band-aid and covered the small cut around her knuckles with foundation, she was wearing a long-sleeved gown to shade her wound from prying eyes. People, always trying to establish your life is not perfect like theirs.

She wasn’t going to address the cause of her pain until she’s back. He was probably on their matrimonial bed still asleep, but she had to get up, because she had to work, because she had to feed the family while he slept like a bunch of rotten bananas.

She checked her watch, frowned at how the small hand had ticked clockwise faster than she had wanted and hissed. The lecture wouldn’t deliver itself, she said to herself. Domestic violence, it seemed was a much sought after topic. Battered women where having none of the bullshit anymore, and she was proud. She stared at her bruised hand, she was proud of them.

Iridescent flowers that have already started darkening by the edges, that was what they looked like. Their faces lighted up in understanding and agreement as they stared ardently at her, eagerly sucking up each word like a child with an insatiable appetite of milk.

She shivered slightly at the sight of the innocence painted on their faces, innocence that for some, has already started getting tainted with a dark paint. She needed to save them; from themselves and from the others be it their parents, partners or the society… or all.

And so her voice got stronger with each word, with each message, with each example stating a hundred and one reasons why a woman is the owner of her body and why no one, can take that away from her.

‘The word ‘woman’ has, for a long time been taken to be synonymous to ‘weakness’, and that is why the girl child has been conceived of weakness, birthed by weakness and brought up in weakness. It has been drummed in our brains for so long we begin to believe in that and that is why when our husbands batter us’ she cringed at the thought of that ‘it is taken for granted and blame is heaped solely on us, the weakness’ her voice dripped of passion. She needed them to understand that they needed to stand up for themselves, she needed them to understand there in the grand looking assembly hall of the school of the elite children before it was too late.

‘But not anymore’, she went on. ‘The modern woman is strength and power. She understands that she is human before woman, she understands that she is woman and therefore priceless, she understands that dowry is not a ticket to torture, she understands that she is the owner of her body and she will fight to see that every other person accepts same’. She concluded.

The thunderous applause made her jolt a bit in fright. She stood stunned as the crowd of young secondary school girls and teachers stood up and cheered.

It always happened like that and that was why they scouted lectures so much from her for whenever she was delivering a lecture on violence against women, she was never herself. She was a woman from fifteen years ago who had been dragged and man handled, slapped across the face and told to shut up or the knife glistening in the dark will be buried within her. And she had to stifle her scream and lie for hour-like minutes until the deed was done and her innocence, gone. The most painful part being she knew who it was, and she knew he was a coward as only cowards hit women.

She smiled and lowered her eyes as if shy. The rage of being a victim had subsided and she was back to herself.

The admiration in the eyes of the female students and the profusely stated appreciations were enough for her. Her job was done.

She didn’t want to go back home. She didn’t want to face him or anyone. She just wanted to drive away, far away, but she knew she couldn’t, she knew she had to face her worse nightmare who shared her bed every day for 5 years.

The moment she pushed the door open and heard the sound of feet shuffling, she knew he was home. Where else would he be? Useless man.

‘Come here’. Silence.

‘I said come here’. Now with obvious annoyance.

She felt the rage creep back in. He always had that effect on her ever since he decided it was a good idea to rape her. Little did he know, he fucked with the wrong girl.

10 years after the rape, she had bloomed into a beautiful woman,and he had thought that she had forgotten as it happened a long time ago. And so when she did everything young ladies were prone to do to get the attention of men they liked, he had succumbed and had fallen prey. Some months later, they were married, what he will come to discover was her plot for revenge all along.

She had made his life a living hell from the first year of their wedding. She had made him lose his job, distanced him from family and friends and basically made him dependent on her so that all the power were in her palms, the palms she used to batter him all day as she relieved that dark night that awakened the monster in her.

Her fists were still sore from the punch she had given him last night and she could see him visibly shake as her palms curled to fists.

‘Bloody coward. I hope you tell this story to your fellow weak men who hit women’. She spat out in disgust and landed him another punch.

Title: Different 

By Dela Azojani Adeorike

Samson was Delilah’s little piece of heaven and she was everyone’s desire. The six months with him had been a bed of roses until fourteen days ago.  Samson had invited her for a party. At the party, she couldn’t find him. She asked few people,” please am I his keeper?” said another hissing and cursing…when she found him, “meet me upstairs in five minutes’ time”Samson said giving her a snack. Walking up the stairs, shecollapsed at the door. With nausea, she ran to the bathroom for a puke only to feel something roll down her thighs. Delilah had been waiting him, but he wasn’t welcoming at all. ” where have you been? I have been worried sick about you, don’t you know-” Delilah said but he cuts in ” madam you don’t need to worry about me, hope your whole adventure with those guys was mind-blowing like they said”. He was gone before she could reply. Thinking of the whole incident, she found herself at Samson’s door, he had planned the gang rape and spread that she was a cheerful giver.  She waltzed in with a gun, points samsonand smiling, she pulled the trigger… 

By Stephen Ezennwa

I thought we were done;

She said I was gonna miss her; no doubts I did, but this?

No, I didn’t bargain for this, none of this.

I broke up with her over the phone and thirty minutes later she was at my apartment;

We talked it out;

She told me that it wasn’t going to be easy for her to move on;

But she promised me she’d be fine;

I made her promise me that she won’t do anything drastic;

She left with tears in her eyes;

Even at the moment I broke up with her I loved her;

Seven months later, I’m at Kilimanjaro getting myself treated to a nice meal, courtesy of Phay, my new girlfriend;

After not seeing her for so long, She walks out of nowhere looking like she’s been on some strong shit, wearing a pair of boots and raggedy clothing;

Merely looking at her I knew she hadn’t gotten over it;

I rushed over to where she was and gave her a hug;

Phay opened up for one but she wasn’t taking any of that;

She joined us at the table, we talked, ate, laughed just like old times but she carefully avoided talking directly to Phay;

She said it was time for her to leave;

She stood up and told me to look her straight into the eyes whilst bringing something out of her bag;

“Don’t worry dear” Phay said, thinking she wanted to foot the bill.

Still looking at her, she brought out a pistol and pointed it at Phay and asked me 

“Is she the reason you left me?” 

“I was willing to change for you but I guess you wanted someone else.” 

….. Smiling, she pulled the trigger.

By Jummai Umar

“Greetings, Jonathon.” She patted her purse, making sure all her belongings were inside and smiled. Jonathon was surprised to see her—how would she know his business at the port? 

“What a welcome surprise.”, he said in a friendly tone, trying to conceal his nervousness. “What brings you here?” 

“I never thought you would disrespect our mother so openly.”, she said, gesturing to the bodies on the ship, being transported to a life of servitude. 

“You know I have no choice. Business is booming, and you see what types of returns these good provide me.”, Johnathon said in a patient, yet condescending voice. He was the wealthiest man in town.

“Have you forgotten who we are? Those people are our brothers.” she said calmly. She looked into his eyes, searching for any remorse, any excuse for her to delay his fate. She adjusted her purse. 

“It doesn’t matter. Money is money.” He turned and waved as he walked towards his ship. 

“And your money– and life shall come to an end.” She reached into her purse. Her mother always told her that she would have no choices in life, just things she had to do. Smiling, she pulled the trigger.  

By Umeh Prisca Ijeoma

          Crowing cocks and screeching birds together with the rays of light that found it’s way through her window, announced the dawn of the morning. It’s been exactly two months she had been living with this stranger who saved her from her captors despite being one of them. She’s still perplexed as to why Ruth saved her.          Learning of the reason for her caption and torture and the person responsible wasn’t easy to take in but she had to as all evidence pointed against her. She developed great hatred and had one primary goal in her heart – to kill the source of her pain.Arming herself adequately, she went to the house where she had lived for seven years with this devil’s incarnate. She saw him having fun with his mistress whom was the reason she was treated the way she was. She was moved to tears as the sweet thoughts of the time they spent together came rushing back to her head. Unfortunately, the hatred she now felt overpowered it and she had to put on a lingering smile. She louded the revolver and pointed the gun at him, smiling, she pulled the trigger.

Excerpt from Act of Time

By Dahiru Amina.

Every day we make choices, what shoe to wear? What food to eat? Every day we make choices that define how the day goes. We are wired to know the difference between pain and gain, and every choice we make is either one of them, has to be one of them

We’ve been given a pen and book and our destinies are all what we write them out to be. Regardless of how intelligent you might be, you are bound to have a lapse of judgement. 

So, here I was sitting across a forty-five year old man, a bottle of insecticide and between us a confession note and a suicide note. 

“The choice is yours but you’ve got to make a decision in 10 minutes or you lose the right to a choice. Tick tock” 

By Jonathan Oluwatosin O

At today’s gathering, Nadia recited a poem that ended with “…its okay to say that my Step Dad didn’t rape me, my Mother did!”. Palms were jammed in applause to the alluring words. 

Benediction and everyone was dismissed. If only they knew that a prayer point had earlier stood behind a mic; telling her own story. But it is poetry right? Another Poet perfectly puts words down that addresses an issue that was already growing into being a cliché

The day before, Nadia told her mother of the things done to her by her Stepfather. Her mother replied “you know happy say we don dey see food chop, no tell anyone abeg”. 

Nadia returned that night, made her way to their bedroom and wasted no time in calling judgement upon her defiler. Her mother was next, and no begging did spare her a bullet.

I stood faintly behind her, hoping I was much more than her shadow; so I could stretch my hands to cease the gun. I screamed, but it was all but silent yells. 

Gently, she guided her shaky hands to her head; with the gun pointing just above her ear, smiling, she pulled the trigger. 

By Peace .E. Victor

The last exam Eno wrote was the most difficult exams she has written since she got admission into the school. Few days later, while she was preparing to return home for holiday, her phone rang, she picked the call.
 ” Eno”  her mother called. “Good morning ma” eno greeted.”Eno your  father has been fired!” Her mother said.”Fired!” Eno screamed, as her mother ended the call, Goosebumps filled her body, like the whole world had fallen on her, she is yet to recover from the fear of failing her exams, now her father has been fired. The pain of paying her fees in school, she has drop out of school or face the embarrassment from Mr Wilson for not paying her fees.
She picked up her bucket of water, just as she was about to enter the bathroom, she collapsed.Few days later,  she woke up and finds herself in the hospital, with her mother and friends.  She couldn’t believe she had been in coma.
 ” Thank God you are alive  Your father has been called back to work” her mother said excitedly.
 “Congratulations! You had an excellent result”  Clara said.She looked at them smiling, she pulled the trigger.’

By OYENIRAN TOFUNMI EUNICE

It was 6am. The day had finally come. The USA international field Archery. Naomi closed her eyes as she silently prayed. Thirty minutes later, she was already dressed.

Today determines if she would qualify for the championship level.

“You can do this Naomi”, she told herself as Francis her brother entered the room after a quick knock.

“Hey sis, are you ready?” He asked

“To be honest Francis, I’m nervous.”

“You don’t have to be; you’ve come this far. We all believe in you”, he encouraged.

“If only dad was here”, she commented sadly.

He had gotten a call and couldn’t fly with them for her most important game.

At the venue, Naomi’s coach approached her .

“Keep your focus, aim high and make us proud, Naomi”, he saidwith a pat on her shoulders.

Then she heard the announcer call her up: “now, we have Naomi Jacobs from Nigeria.”

She looked at her brother, giving her a reassuring smile, before walking towards the field.

She carried her ICU 10m match crossbow and positioned it on her shoulders. Her father’s words ringing in her head: “you are the best!”

She got the needed confidence; smiling, she pulled the trigger.