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The rising spate of suicide and the need for mental health awareness

The rising spate of suicide and the need for mental health awareness

‘Black people do not go for counselling, they go to church’. This is a line from a movie and it somehow depicts what most of us in this part of the world believe in.

 Due to our culture and traditions, it seems odd and out of place to go see a psychologist for a session. Being an adult is mostly measure with how well you are able to handle your own issues, no matter how tough life gets, we are raised to be strong and overcome whatever may come our way.

Ever seen someone say, I need to see a psychologist? An average Nigerian or even African will probably look at him amused. But can you imagine a response ‘I need to see a psychiatrist’ will get? People will probably start running and avoiding such a person because who needs a psychiatrist but a ‘nut case?’

But must you be crazy to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist?  The answer is definitely no and the number of seemingly normal people living with one mental issue or the other will prove this right.

When we read or hear about people committing suicide, we are quick to judge and castigate them, calling them weaklings and sissies. We compare and contrast what they've been through with the hard time we have survived. Some are quick to share how they lived under the bridge without food and clothes yet they never considered suicide. Some other people may share how a lover of five years left them heartbroken but they survived the phase. All these tales to conclude there is no justification for committing suicide.

Tough time is normal in our walk on this planet hence it is usually not the main reason people commit suicide. Most times; tales of woes are just a smokescreen, an excuse to hold on to. Look into these people and you will see some of them have gone through a harder time and overcame. So what went wrong now? The answer is simple yet misunderstood by many, “THE MIND IS SICK”.

Just like we fall sick physically, the mind can also be sick. But unlike physical infirmities that could be easily diagnosed with equipment, mind sicknesses are not so easy to identify, in fact, some cases can be easily misdiagnosed if care is not taken.

Setbacks and challenges may lead to depression but in most cases, overcoming the situation will not cure depression as much as leaving mosquitoes prone area will not cure a person of malaria fever, treatment is required.

There is an urgent need for the government and civil society organizations to pay attention to mental health as much as they are doing to other areas.

According to, Nigeria’s population is put at 200,571,649 and out of this number, the Ministry of Health says about 30% of Nigerians are suffering from one mental case or the other, that is about 60 million people. It is however sad that with such a high figure of mental cases which brings Nigeria to the highest in Africa, there are just 250 certified psychologists to handle them. Mind you, unreported cases are not among the provided figure.

If there is a time to invest more in the mental health of its citizens, I will say it is now that suicide stories are fast becoming a norm. People need to be enlightened about the causes and symptoms of mental disease. We need to know having a mental problem does not mean one is mad or crazy. People should be encouraged to seek professional help when the need arise and this help should be made available and affordable.

We need to understand it is not enough to talk to people, once anyone tells you they are having suicidal thoughts, encourage him or her to see a professional.  Visit the pastor for a chat but don’t forget to also visit the doctor (except the pastor is also a professional).

Religious leaders need to know in most cases, they cannot talk people out of depression or suicidal thoughts. Depression is a symptom that the mind is sick, therefore, professional help should be sought.

Written by Folukemi Ogundiran

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