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How to get rid of the stigma associated with depression in Nigeria

There isa sense of shame associated with mental illness in Nigeria
  • According to the Nigeria National Depression report, at least 60 million Nigerians are suffering from depression. 
  • Despite this huge number, there is a culture of stigma and discrimination surrounding the issue of mental health.
  • A Nigerian therapist shares his thoughts on how to fight this stigma associated with mental illnesses.

People dealing with depression and other forms of mental illness often deal with feelings of shame, stigma and discrimination.

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“If you have depression, people can cast you as mad, which means that the majority of people who have mental health issues in Nigeria do not understand, or want to accept what they are feeling,” says Latifah Yusuf Ojomo, the deputy head of the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (Mani) in Lagos State.

This is a major cause of concern considering the fact that millions of Nigerians are dealing with depression and other mental health issues.

Business Insider Sub Saharan Africa reached out to Olugbile Holloway, a Counsellor/Therapist and Founder of Hidden Conversations to offer his advice on dealing with depression in Nigeria and the stigma associated with mental health.

Here is what he had to say. “The first step is to start talking about the mind more as a community. We are very religious and have created so many avenues for the expression of spirituality via churches, mosques etc. What needs to be done now is to build on that by starting to open avenues for discussions about the mind and how it works. Without understanding the mind, we become prone to so many mental health illnesses that are better understood and tackled by countries in the western world,” he said.

Next, the therapist recommends having safe spaces and getting rid of stress.

In his words, “we need to have open and honest forums where people can express themselves without the fear of mockery or being judged, everyone must realize that we are all caregivers. Nobody is immune to having a mental illness and the more we reach out to understand and help others, the more we, in turn, help ourselves. Also, we must all take steps to keep our lives and the lives of those around us as stress-free as possible. This collaborative approach is the only way mental health awareness can truly work and for the stigma to be lifted gradually over time.”

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