Every 40 seconds 1 person dies to suicide worldwide.
There are 7,079,815 Nigerians living with Depression.
There are only 250 psychiatrists across Nigeria (Thats roughly 1 psychiatrist to 1 million Nigerians).
Let that sink in.
Nigeria carries much of the mental health burden in Africa and yet little of the understanding of mental illness. This lack of understanding is evident in their archaic laws:
1. Suicide is a crime in Nigeria, under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, and carries a penalty of up to one year in prison
2. The Lunacy Act of 1958
An Act that says that people with mental illness can be detained in hospitals but doesn't adequately discuss their capacity to consent for treatment or how the affairs or property of somebody with a mental illness should be managed.
When our own judicial system penalises people for having a mental illness, when they fail to take care of people at their most vulnerable.. What example do the masses have to follow? Is it any surprise that people don't want to speak up?
Guess what? If you criminalise something, you stigmatise it and if you stigmatise it, people don't talk.
We can all shout it from the rooftops when we have a cold or malaria but when it comes to our mental health we are silent. There’s this myth that mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and anorexia are a white man's problem (remember over 7 million Nigerians with depression). People will say that if you have depression you are weak and if its anxiety they'll ask you 'where is your faith?'.
It's okay to take paracetamol for a headache, chloroquine for malaria, insulin for diabetes but if its depression you should just 'man up?'.
Depression is real. You're not weak. That anxiety you feel is not because you're being dramatic. You're no less because you struggle with your mental health. There are so many people like you. So many feeling just as scared and feeling just as alone. Don't suffer in silence. Talk about it. Get help. You're not alone. And with the right help, you can and will feel better.
Here at SHAKE Africa we want you to know that we stand with you.
HAPPY MENTAL HEALTH DAY
Your friends at SHAKE Africa
P.S. Because we love all things taboo we'll be talking about all things sex and mental health in our blog series 'Sex, Mental Health and Me'. So keep your eyes peeled!