Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior or a combination of these.
Mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well-being.
Mental illness is associated with a lot of factors including genetics, life challenges, marriage issues, hormones, loss of a loved one or property and many more.
Mental illness is more common in women, in fact, depression is the most common mental illness in women. Women are also more prone to having Post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety due to the prevalence of sexual assaults and domestic violence.
Gender bias and discrimination, inferiority complex, oppression, emotional abuse, humiliation and a sense of loss also contributes to why more women are prone to being depressed than men according to the World Health Organisation.
Rape victim shaming also leads to a high number of suicide. Many people in this society have still not come to terms with the fact that a rape victim should be treated as such no matter what leading to stigma and abandonment. Many rape cases go unreported.
Now merge these facts with a society that does not recognize mental ill health, oppresses and stigmatizes the depressed and prefers to look the other way when the symptoms manifest. Little wonder women in Nigeria are in the forefront of spousal killings, stepchildren maiming, co-wives burning and other borne of pure pure frustration and depression.
When the majority of the populace are ignorant of the psychological disorders ravaging the nations very core, it is no surprise that it will only keep growing in multiples like a Hydra tackled by an ignorant swordsman.
From early teenage years, hormonal changes and growth wreaks havoc on the senses and teenagers often get misunderstood for acting and reacting in a certain way when in reality, they cannot help but react that way because of the changes occurring in them. And for some, when puberty is backed up by sexual assault and oppression in home front such as early marriage and gender bias, they can end up being depressed at a very early age.
People take mood swings attributed to monthly cycles for granted but every month, women have a shift in their hormones and that not only lowers their immunity, it makes them moody to the point of being temporarily depressed, anxious, irritable and borderline bipolar. Those may be because of the monthly cycle, but it may also be a warning to a greater problem.
Pregnancy is the major cause of hormonal turbulence and it is not uncommon for a woman to be depressed and have mood swings throughout that pregnancy.
Post-partum depression or baby blues occurs after birth (usually first birth) and it can be so serious it can make a woman homicidal to the point of killing the baby or suicidal. Some women especially those who conceived through rape tend to be blame the baby and have a certain enmity towards it.
All these, apart from puberty are unique to women therefore it is the duty of fellow women to lookout for each other during these times. And the first step you can take is get this message out there, inform others, offer help and generally be supportive all through.
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 are 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 you mental well-being means so much more than what you think. It means the world.