"The attention given to mental health disorders in Nigeria is at best, fleeting; the level of awareness of the Nigerian public on mental health issues is also understandably poor, and the misconceptions regarding mental health have continued to flourish." ~ ANM
In 2019, Abi Banky (Abiola Balikis Bankole), the founder of Afrokanist Magazine and Obirin UK collaborated with Dashong Kim a professional photographer, artist and story-telller to exhibit what they titled The Many Faces of Depression.
The purpose of this collaboration was to bring attention to the many ways that depression manifests in individuals, although the project was meant to be an exhibition, however, no one could've predicted that Covid would happen. So they've decided to go ahead and share the wonderful, heartwarming stories of those who have survived the painful reality of depression in Nigeria.
PHOTO-DOCUMENTARY QUESTION GUIDE
Describe who you are in three words?
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “ Mind your Mind”?
Have you felt any of these emotions consistently for at least 3 weeks to a month (extreme sadness, emptiness, suicidal, not useful to anyone or yourself, extreme fatigue, constant nausea for at least a week, confusion, anxiety, loss of appetite)?
Have you ever seen a professional or have you ever been diagnosed with any form of mental illness?
How would you describe the feeling of depression?
Do you think Mental Illness is acknowledged in Nigeria? If yes, why? If no, why?
At what point did you realize that you might be suffering from a form of mental illness?
How did it make you feel?
Name: Ekene May Age: 28 years old "I was diagnosed with depression in 2010 after the death of a close friend who had sickle cell and I had a bad result from school. Even though I was very sad, angry and alone, I was unaware that I was depressed until the doctor said it about a month later after running a general checkup due to something like a smallpox outbreak I had. The result of all the tests showed that I was fine but mentally I was not okay and according to the doctor; He said I was depressed. However, after some time, I found a way to vent out all of my bottled feelings/worries, I started writing and it helped me a lot. I was able to pour out all of my anger with myself, with everyone and I was able to forgive and move on. I got better even though I do get relapses."
Name: Kim Tislo Age: 26 years old
"I attempted suicide twice. First in 2009 and then in 2012. There is this pressure that people face when trying to 'live up to standard'; it's a real struggle and also it was the cause of my first attempt. I had so much inferiority complex as a teenager! I tried so much to keep up with peers and to make the whole thing worse, I had to deal with mockery.
As a teenager, I didn't have the understanding whatsoever of having to live your decisions or make choices without having to believe another person's opinion and this was a genuine battle for me. I lived with this battle and it kept pilling up until one day they came with the mockery thing. It was so hurtful because they said my dreams of being a great person was lame and all. I was sad and bitter!
Now before I continue, you need to know that for a young boy who was dealing with so much self-doubt and low self-esteem, the least I needed was the world to further fuel that judgement: which was exactly what the people around me did. That very day, I took an overdose of antibiotics and I remember them telling me; 'shey you want to die, oya die now'! Well, I did it and I was waiting to start convulsing or something, but just luckily enough for me, nothing happened to me. I was fine.
The second attempt was in 2012 when I had waited two years for admission into the university. Back when I finished high school, my WAEC result was poor and I had to resit a couple of times. At this point, I have not yet battled my issue of inferiority complex and it crept in again, I did try to keep up with the joneses and join my peers in the university.
I remember friends calling and telling me they had gotten admission abroad in different countries, in private universities and even federal universities but there I was battling to rewrite WAEC and trying to get admission. I was so mad and hard on myself that day that I called myself a failure, good for nothing and felt that those people who criticized me years ago were right and my dreams of being a great person would actually not come true. And for the second time, I was ready to end it all! The only thing that held me back this time around was my knowledge of the word of God. I waited four years before finally getting to do my degree.
Truthfully, people battle with depression because life just does not go exactly the way they had planned or hoped."
Name: Ephraim Ibrahim Age: 26 years old
"I did not grow up to be in so much lack, so when my family got financially down it hit me hard. I am in university and I have many needs, financial needs just like every other student. So whenever I get broke and my parents are not able to provide like before it makes me sad. I think this has been the lowest point of my life and I find myself drifting in and out of depression.
I feel it more when I am alone so I try to stay in the company of friends or stay distracted with music at all times, Never have I shared this with anyone, so nobody has known and nobody has asked until now because I think they feel I am happy because of how I behave. I try to stay strong and adapt, but it is really hard for me."
Name: Dashong Kim Age: 26 years old
"It was 2017 and it felt like a sharp pin pushed deep in my chest every time it hit me. I was unable to be in control. I did not understand the sadness, I was just sad about everything and anything.
I wanted so dearly to feel better and to be understood but I did not get that for a long time. I resort to drowning myself in work, anything that will keep me from being idle. I was all alone amid so-called friends. I was suffocating and no one knew about it because it was all smiles every day and everywhere except for my never-ending sad write-ups that gave me away and when confronted I denied the feeling, 'it is just a write-up'. I said.
I never got better until I accepted that I was depressed and I needed help. I still have relapses ever sometimes."
You don't have to go through it alone!
Many people care about you and they are willing to do something about it. Despite the increasing mental health crisis below are some organisations working to support and improve mental wellness in Nigeria.
We almost didn’t happen…
Hauwa is the founder of She Writes Woman, the organisation was founded in April 2016 following years of Hauwa's extreme mood cycles and a near suicide attempt. People shouldn’t have to live in shame or silence because of their mental health. People deserve love, hope and support, and a chance at a better life despite their mental health. She Writes Woman is a women-led movement of love hope and support that gives mental health a voice in Nigeria. Their vision is to create better lives for Nigerians by improving the way they think, feel and behave. www.shewriteswoman.org
LPM is a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting mental health wellness and awareness among youths in Nigeria between ages 18 to 40.
They cater to persons affected by mental illness by providing mental health care and services. Their organization uses creative/alternative forms to change the perception of mental health in Nigeria while helping survivors discover, regain and utilize their voice. www.lpmfoundation.org
Neem Foundation is a leading crisis response organisation committed to promoting the protection and wellbeing of populations and communities living in contexts affected by conflict, violence, and fragility. www.neemfoundation.org.ng
NDỊDỊ is a private mental health practice that provides a warm, accessible and non-judgmental psychotherapy service to help you deal with your life’s challenges so that you can live a fulfilling, peaceful and happier life. www.ndidi.me
Click here for more information about The Mind Your Mind projects.