Wellbeing

Mental Health: Five Nigerians’ Experience with Depression

Nigerians rarely admit to or discuss depression and mental health. Depression and other mental health issues are viewed as “madness”. Hence, there is a stigma attached to it. But depression is a significant public health problem in the country. Officially, about 3.9% of Nigerians suffer from depression. But studies have shown that the prevalence of depression among young adult is as high as 25% and 19% amongst elderly Nigerians. 

Depression for some people results from a “complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors”. Other people develop depression after experiencing an adverse life event such as the loss of a loved one or a job. 

We gained access to a network of Nigerians living with depression. One person’s experience of depression often differs from another’s. But everyone we spoke to said two things have really helped them cope with depression. One, the support of close family members and friends. Two, seeing a therapist to treat them for depression. They all advised people suffering from depression, especially young Nigerians, to seek medical help urgently. But the cost of seeing a therapist in Nigeria is between N20,000 and N50,000. This could be a barrier in a country where the minimum wage is N30,000 and the unemployment rate is over 33%.

Precious  Toyinbo, 49, Teacher.

“I took my time to write a suicide note. My intention was to place the note where it would be found beside my dead body.”

When I was 12, I was the victim of a vicious sexual assault by my father’s older brother. For years after that, I was depressed. I kept it a secret and was afraid to tell anyone for fear of being ostracized and treated differently. Since I had no one to talk to about it, I suffered in silence. I felt alone. When I was 18, I made a conscious decision to take my own life.

I knew that my mother kept rat poison in the kitchen drawer. It was a Saturday afternoon. My parents were attending a wedding party and I assumed they would not be back until evening. I took my time to write a suicide note. My intention was to place the note where it would be found beside my dead body. I took the poison to our store room and readied myself. As I was about to take the poison, I heard a car pull into my parent’s driveway. This spooked me. So I quickly hid the poison away. I found out it was my aunt coming to drop something off. After she left, I returned the poison to the kitchen drawer.

Also Read: Stroke: Taking two vitamin supplements together could hike your risk of stroke by 17%

I tore the note and cried for hours in my room. My aunt’s visit was a sign from God that I was not meant to die that day. Nevertheless, I was haunted for years by the memory of how my uncle abused me as a child. A few years later, my best friend encouraged me to tell my parents about the assault. What really helped me to live through years of darkness and despair was talking to other survivors of similar attacks.

I came to find out that there are many people who have been assaulted as children. I initially spoked to a friend’s sister who had been sexually abused as a child as well. Over the years I have spoken to many other people. It really helped me emotionally to stop thinking that I must have done something wrong to deserve the assault. I knew I was not alone. For me, the cure was talking to others. No matter how bad it may seem, or how alone you may feel, others are there to help. By the grace of God and good people, I was able to get through that trying time in my life.

Rachael Williams, 43, Fashion Designer.

“I was losing my sanity. Imagine walking on the road and suddenly screaming “Bayo! Why did you leave me?” The next minute I would be rolling on the floor crying bitterly.”

Last year I lost my husband and I almost ran mad. A lot of thoughts were coming to my head. I could not sleep. It was impossible to eat. Suicide often crossed my mind. I was so depressed and became very distant from my children. It was only God that brought me back to normal. I was losing my sanity. Imagine walking on the road and suddenly screaming “Bayo! Why did you leave me?” The next minute I would be rolling on the floor in public and crying bitterly.

My children wanted to lock me in the house but people told them it would only make matters worse. My husband was not ill. We had a minor disagreement on the night he died. He had come home drunk. I railed at him about how he wasted money we could have used for our children’s education on alcohol. My reaction till today causes me great pain. This is because my Bayo was not a drinker. 

I should have sat him down and asked why he drank so much that night. It is really sad that I choose to be angry. I regret that to this day. The next day, I found his lifeless body lying next to me in bed when I woke up. I am still in the process of healing. It’s not easy, but I am trying to be strong for my kids. My advice to anyone depressed is that they shouldn’t give up on life. Death is not the solution to anything. Keep strong. Face your demons and conquer them. Suicide is not an option.

Daniel Giwa, 53, Businessman.

“After school, I thought things would change. I hoped that my depression would disappear. Unfortunately, I was wrong.”

I have been dealing with major depression my entire adult life.  When I was at the University, I decided to see a therapist. But my parents didn’t support this. I insisted and finally started seeing a therapist towards my final year. I was diagnosed with major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder. My final year in university was tough. I had to see the therapist every Tuesday afternoon. It was awkward explaining this to friends. I was embarrassed to say I was seeing a therapist. But I had to confide in a few close friends. Luckily, they were supportive. After school, I thought things would change. I hoped that my depression would disappear. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

therapy session
I got a job after graduation. But I was too distracted by the newness of it all to really focus on my mental health. After a few months on the job, my depression returned in full force. I attempted suicide three months after I started working. The only reason I survived is that the guy I was sharing an apartment with realized something was wrong. I don’t want to relive the details. After that incident, I left the job and returned to my family house. I realized that I desperately needed to get help. 

Also Read: Work-life balance: what really makes us happy might surprise you

I went through different therapists and five different medications before I found the combination that worked for me. It was not like magic. True, the new drugs were effective and made a real difference. But the journey to mental wellness was a process. Even now, I still struggle a bit.

My advice to anyone going through depression is that they should seek help from a professional. Nigerians do not understand mental health. People don’t hide high blood pressure or diabetes. So, why do we refuse to seek help for depression? Going to a psychologist does not mean you are crazy. It shows you realize you have a treatable illness and you need help. It is the same way a person with diabetes visits a medical doctor. Also, it shows you realize that you have friends and families who love you. That you realize that your loved ones would rather stand by you and care for you than see you hurt yourself. 

Kalejaye Olaniyi, 52, Engineer. 

“The magic that this friend and family members do is that they are able to penetrate the barrier of lies and insecurities that depression creates.”

I am depressed. I can’t remember the last time I was really happy. There are days when I ask myself, “What are you still staying here for?” Of course, I don’t even have an answer. But sometimes, I just feel like I don’t want to be here anymore. That is a very tough feeling to deal with. But there are good days when I feel I can beat this thing called depression. I truly cherish such days. I am so overwhelmed with happiness. 

The happiness comes from friends and family. Their unconditional love is a big joy. The magic that these friends and family members do is that they are able to penetrate the barrier of lies and insecurities that depression creates. They make life worth living. The extremes of depression are the worst. One minute you could be on cloud nine and the next you can feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. Good friends and family members give you the strength to keep going on. 

therapy groupI might be seeing a therapist soon. I am not suicidal though. My problem is that I never stay happy for long. One day, I would like to get to a place where I can know for certain, without a doubt in my mind that I belong here. Where I do not require the validation or reassurance of other people.

My advice to anyone managing depression is that they should surround themselves with friends and family. They might not get rid of the depression but they will make it much bearable.

Bimbo Adebola, 55, Petty Trader.

“But I think a lot about how much better my life would have turned out if I had started seeing a therapist 10 years ago, 15 years ago, or 20 years ago.”

I went through maybe two full decades of my life in total denial of my depression. I think some people who were close to me could see it clearly. But I refused to identify as a person who was prone to depression. I was aware of the condition. But I convinced myself that my case was not really serious. Also, I did not want others to think less of me. But it got so bad I couldn’t keep lying to myself. But then, I had no money to pay a therapist. I fell into a period of clinical depression. Apart from overwhelming numbness and apathy, my only feelings were anger, fear, and self-loathing. 

Woman lying still in a therapy sessionThis had major consequences on my work life and led to me completely alienating someone with whom I was once very close. I had to reach this low to get real help beyond talk therapy and to be prescribed an antidepressant. It made all the difference. I truly feel more like myself now. I am grateful that this positive change happened. But I think a lot about how much better my life would have turned out if I had started seeing a therapist 10 years ago, 15 years ago, or 20 years ago. I urge other people, especially young people, to overcome their pride and do what they can to stop or at least manage destructive mental illness. It’s a very hard thing to admit to having problems. But it is the only way you can hope to solve them. 

Note: We have altered the names of the people we spoke to, to protect their identity

Related Articles

Back to top button

Subscribe to our newsletter!

newsletter

Stay up to date with our latest news and articles.
We promise not to spam you!

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Arbiterz will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.