Xenophilia and the Nigerian Self-Worth

The gratuitous insult that Donald Trump shot at Buhari after their meeting in the White House actually brings up one important issue: the unapologetic zeal that compels many Nigerian leaders to seek the favour of the West even at the risk of selling out their own people. Buhari who called Nigerian youths “lazy” and entitled before a Western audience, perhaps now understands the power of negative labels.

Of course, that wasn’t the first time the Nigerian political class would seek a stamp of legitimacy by doing all in their might to curry the favour of America or Europe. This line of thinking is typically called xenophilia or anglophilia.

The irrational, unjustified fervor with which Nigerian elites desperately seek foreign education, medical care, shopping, luxury item and attention at the exclusion of what is offered them at home is a hallmark of the deep-seated inferiority complex that has imperiled our thinking.

I remember for quite a while, too, Goodluck Jonathan also ran on the euphoria of being the first Nigerian leader to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange during the fall of 2013. The purpose of that trip was also to soothe Obama who had snubbed Nigeria during his visit to Africa at the time. Somehow he thought that pandering to America was a plus for his administration.

This debilitating mental hostage to anything foreign is not limited to the political class, it is also observed in the way most Nigerians seek and venerate white approval and attention for virtually everything – from business to entertainment, to social interactions, to marriage to religion.

If you want your music or movie to trend in Nigeria, get a white man or woman to feature in it. Do you want large Nigerian followers on social media? That’s simple; just announce from the roofs that you are based in any Western country. Some pictures of white men will do too, and hundreds of flyblown sycophants will grace your timeline daily even if you are as derp as a door nail.

If you want to extract some in-depth information that no Nigerian journalist can ever obtain from Nigerians, go get a white man or woman to do the job. You will be amazed to see how Nigerian grown-ups regress into simpering, little chatterboxes confessing their innermost secrets to a deity.

There was this documentary titled Law and Disorder which was produced by a British journalist, Louis Theroux, some years back. Though it was supposed to explore the Area Boys phenomenon in Lagos, the undertone of the documentary narrative was depreciatory. It was aimed at subtly mocking Nigeria.

Many of the Lagosians interviewed were so excited that an oyinbo took interest in them that they willingly yielded themselves up to him, indulged his silliness, and even told lies in the process. One even went to the extent of showing the white journalist the security of his house, his collection of shoes and even boasted that he shops in Milan! Such mental slavery!

I read about a rich Nigerian woman who travelled to the U.S. to treat a medical condition. It turned out that the best doctor for her condition was a Nigerian-born medical doctor. But the woman vehemently refused to be treated by a Nigerian; she insisted that she had spent millions of naira to come to America to be treated by a white man, not a Nigerian. Eventually, the Nigerian doctor handed her treatment over to a white doctor.

A friend who trained at IITA Ibadan once shared with me that the first time she saw a white man walk up to her in the laboratory, she was so nervous that she dropped the beaker in her hands. I honestly felt sorry for her; she must have been laboring under postcolonial indoctrination of the “white master race” that made her awe-struck like someone who saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Colonialism may be over, but many Nigerians are still held hostage to its xenophilic and anglophilic mentality by their reverence for anything foreign, especially if “white”. In a way, this internalization of low self-worth is understandable; the curriculum in many Nigerian schools do not instill a sense of national pride into children. So from young ages, many of them already despise and reject their own culture, history and identity while taking pride in foreign ones.

I read some interviews with several Nigerian children during this year’s Children’s Day, not one of them had anything positive to say about Nigeria or even wanted to stay in Nigeria. But children should be taught that all humans are equal; the colour of their skin does not make them better or worse than anyone else. They should be taught about our own heroes, culture and history.

Even as adults, our self-worth and legitimacy should come from our abilities and potential, not from American or European power structures. We don’t become “better” for becoming foreign to our roots.

With the current power dynamics in the world, we should also be careful of pandering to every narrative from Western media. When they reinforce and rehash wrong stereotypes about our own people, we should firmly counter it.

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How “Class” can affect our Health

It’s a generally accepted fact that the appurtenances of modernity have much benefit to humanity. They have enabled us to live better, work more efficiently, move faster, communicate across physically impossible distances and feel more comfortable.

There is nothing inherently wrong with upward mobility. However, there are certain ways they can have negative implications on our health. There are some habits and lifestyles that are conditioned into our daily lives due to social class.

I intend to restrict myself to physical health this time, and highlight some examples of these habits.

1. When you are thirsty, there is a signal in your brain that stimulates the production of a hormone called the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). This hormone travels to the kidney and causes it to increase its re-absorption of water into the bloodstream (thus making your urine more concentrated).

What your body needs at that point is water, not soda, not milk, not fruit juice, not soft drinks and definitely not alcohol. When you quench your thirst with anything other than water, you are simply overtaxing your system.

If you are thirsty and you want to form some “class” and opt to drink Schweppes, do you know what you are doing? You are filling your body with sugar and other chemicals when your bodily need is simply water. Now, be honest, how many times have you taken wine or Fanta with a good meal instead of water? You are endangering your health in a number of ways when you do that.

I have been at parties where I see people feasting on a plate of Jollof rice and fried chicken and washing it down with 5 Alive juice and Coca Cola without giving any attention to the natural liquid the body needs: water. If the content of what they ate is broken down, it’s equivalent to eating a bowl of sugar plus oil and washing it down with oil. The body will overwork itself in digesting the food in question.

I was with a friend some years back, and we had spent hours walking a long distance together to complete our clearance prior to our university convocation. She suggested we have a stopover at a shop within the campus and quench our thirst.

To my surprise, she requested for Mirinda. I was puzzled. “Why are you taking that? I thought you said you’re thirsty. You need some water.” She giggled, “I’m hungry and thirsty, so when I take this soft drink, it will both quench my thirst and supply me with energy.”

I shook at my head at such self-harming habit that was apparently giving her weight problems. By the way, if you need sugar, why not take some fruit or natural food containing natural sugar instead of artificial sweets?

According to a research conducted last year, it was observed that excessive intake of soft drinks can lead to erectile dysfunction in men. Yet I personally know someone, a well-educated person, who can’t do without taking a bottle of Coca Cola in a day.

This brings me to another point. The presence of caffeine in carbonated drinks is not healthy for people with sedentary lifestyles. Many people don’t realize they are actually hooked on caffeine and not the drink itself. I also know a woman who would tell you her “throat feels blocked” if she doesn’t take soft drinks. She is probably hooked on caffeine.

In 2017, the Consumer Protection Council reported alarming levels of benzoic acids in Mirinda and Lucozade drinks. The report revealed that the level of benzoic acids present in the two drinks were above the regulated standards of 250mg/k. There have been requests to review the acid contents in Fanta, Sprite and selected soft drinks in the country, but till now, the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and NAFDAC are yet to act on that.

Let’s not endanger our health in the name of class; when you are thirsty, take water. It shouldn’t be too much because that too has its health implications as The Times of India recently published.

2. Another health implication of social class can come through the frequent use of air conditioners. There is what is called normal flora (of microbes) in a room and there are times when pathogenic bacteria or air borne fungi saturate in a stuffy room. The simplest way to deal with this is to let in fresh air into the room to aid cross ventilation.

But when a microbially contaminated room has its windows and doors perpetually shut and air conditioners are put on regularly in the name of “class” virtually everyone in that room will inhale the microbes in with the air emanating from the air conditioner.

This was precisely how Legionnaire’s disease came to be known. It emerged when about 4,000 members of the Pennsylvania State American Legion, an organization of WW II military veterans lodged in a hotel and it was theorized that the air conditioning cooling units caused cold disease symptoms in over 200 victims. Eventually 29 of the Legion died.

Later in 1976, the infection was identified as having pneumonia-like symptoms: high fever, coughing, chest pains and difficulty breathing. The infection was later found to be caused by Legionella pneumophila and it was often present in air conditioner cooling towers, water systems and tanks.

This is why natural breeze ventilating a room is far better than a closed-circuit air which can facilitate the spread of air borne infection, especially through air conditioner. I remember during my MSc. project work, I worked in a lab with about 12 other colleagues. Apparently, due to the fungal isolates some of us were working with, spores of fungi with powdery mycelia began to grow on the ceilings above us. Within few weeks, almost the entire ceiling in the lab was covered with this fungal contaminant.

Even in that environment, some of my colleagues still insisted on using the air conditioner so as to show that we are “classy.” I shudder when I reflect on the health risks that may have resulted from that mulish mentality – and there was no justification for it. We are Microbiologists; we knew better. But we just refuse to apply what we know. Finally, we began to open the doors and windows until it was fumigated.

3. Finally, let me talk briefly about physical activity and diet. We are living in a generation where natural foods are increasingly being replaced by processed ones containing preservatives, some of which are carcinogenic on the long run.

There is no way you would compare the nutrients present in natural tomatoes from a farm with the ones present in processed tomato pastes we buy in the market. The surge of certain cardiovascular and organic diseases can be largely traced to changes in lifestyle and diet in the 20th century. We have been exposed to certain toxic chemicals present in food, body care products and discharged in the environment.

Though there are still some disputes on some findings (e.g. Bisphenol in plastic causing cancer), it would be suffice to say that natural foods are keys to a healthy life. I was passing through an urbane street recently and I noted the increasing number of fast foods within a short distance. Many folks who work around these areas patronize them almost daily, consuming junk food which lacks wholesome nutrition.

In addition to this, many of them also sedentary lifestyles. They can sit in one spot for hours at work and would often leave in their cars with the glass all wined up – instead of talking a good walk and receiving fresh air. And when they get home, they feed on some “fast food” again and sit for another set of hours, busy on social media or TV before they go to bed.

So in a week, they can go through this routine without sweating out the chemicals in their bodies. That is not healthy. These are ways by which our upward mobility can endanger us. Let us eat right; exercise right and maintain a healthy balance.

Re-Embracing our Humanity

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” This maxim rings true. The greatness of a society cannot be divorced from the value it attaches to human lives.

This is the dividing line between a barbaric and civilized society. In one, people are conditioned to see themselves as beasts and in the other; they are socialized to see themselves as human. The way they will view and treat one another will be miles apart.

Nigeria is currently enmeshed in a clash of civilizations; one belonging to the Stone Age and the other, belonging to the Information Age. This week alone, over 200 people in several villages were hacked to death by a crazy rag-tag of ethnic-jingoist Muslim jihadists who call themselves Fulani herdsmen.

These messengers of death went on a killing spree in several villages. The gruesome attack lasted 6 hours and no security operative showed up until it was over. The video footage of this mayhem is too horrible for me to describe here.

To crown this display of savagery, the group claimed they had no choice but to murder in retaliation because 300 of their cows were killed by the victims and, Nigeria is their possession and they are descendants of the 19th century Uthman Dan Fodio whose theocratic dictates must be upheld.

You start to wonder if we are in a country or a Hobbesian jungle; a place where cows are valued above human lives. One of these beasts in human flesh even posted on Facebook that more human lives need to go for the number of cows they allegedly killed to be “balanced.” That’s the most hellish, demonized and insane comment I’ve read in a while.

Shockingly, another ethnic group rejoiced over the deaths because the victims ostensibly voted for the incumbent president and, because they gloated when their ethnic agitators were murdered during a military operation last year.

On both sides, it’s troubling to see how people have sacrificed their humanity on the altars of politics, ethnicity and religion. That’s why we need to re-discover our humanity – the value we attach to human lives. Many of us have lost it.

Those people who died in Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Adamawa, Yobe and Zamfara States are, first and foremost, humans like us. Their primary identity is their humanity; not their ethnicity, not their religion, and certainly not their political stance. These are artificial divisions that are secondary.

We will never become a great nation or a civilized people as long as the value we attach to human lives is based on the plinths of politics, ethnicity, class or religion. This is a tool that has been used to colonize, dehumanize and rule us for decades and we need to break free from it and evolve into a people that place much premium on human lives.

Our lack of humanity is why we quickly “get over” such mass murders each time they happen. Even the President, Muhammadu Buhari, no longer pretends about his abdication of humanity, and that’s why he turned his visit to a red carpet event after a press statement that subtly blames the victims for their own murders. So here we have an Emperor who visits the scene of bloodshed treading on rose petals. What a gross insult to the memories of the victims!

Our collective lack of humanity is the reason why our Super Eagles couldn’t dignify the Plateau State victims with a minute of silence. Too many deaths have occurred in this country for so long that many people have become desensitized to its horrors. If 200 Argentinians had died on Sunday and the Argentinean soccer team was to play at the World Cup on Monday, would they act as if nothing happened? I don’t think so. Reason: we reflect the level of humanity bequeathed on us by our society.

Even when Nigerians in the Diasporas are unjustly murdered, there is no sense of urgency both among our rulers and the ruled to demand a redress of their deaths. We are content to construct a tribal box for the victim, drag him/her into it and rationalize why he/she deserved to be so murdered.

This is because we lack a nationalistic sense of person-hood that should motivate us to stand together against the ravaging forces of injustice and evil. A Nigerian journalist who witnessed the international solidarity that occurred in Paris, France, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015 wrote:

As one of the spectators commandeered to witness the public reiteration of their values, I found myself longing for what Nigeria has not given me: A composition of values, collective ethos and a centripetal ideology capable of rallying the country in times of tragedy.”

As a nation, we are yet to arrive there. These aren’t values we can merely copy-paste; a sense of humanity cannot be imposed, it has to be cultivated. We will have to evolve into a kind of society that values the lives of men, women, children, minorities, and the aged, physically and mentally challenged.

This has to start from within us. We have to start dealing with the deeply rooted biases in us that foster selective humanity based on primordial identities. We have to challenge rhetoric that revokes the right to life of persons based on their tribe, religion, politics or even sexuality, no matter where it is coming from.

We need to jettison religious teachings that literally or symbolically animalise people and call for the murder of others who don’t fit into their diktats. Such religions have no place in our country; they must be rejected and left behind in the dustbin of history.

When we the people rediscover our humanity, we will never again vote for leaders who don’t share our ethos about the sanctity of life. Our priorities, policies and general outlook will change, from health workers to building contractors to electrical engineers to roadside pharmacists to lawmakers to housewives to the average man on the street.

 

The “Hebrew Women” Nigerian Narrative

There is a misconception many Nigerians have and it needs to be changed. It’s a mentality, though prevalent among Christians, has spilled over into some non-Christian thinking: the stigma that is often attached to a woman who gives birth to a baby through caesarean operation. Due to this social conditioning, many Nigerian pregnant women insist on giving birth like “the Hebrew women” – an euphemism for effortless vaginal delivery as opposed to caesarean section.

I have heard this narrative play out in many church testimonials and there is this self-righteous, self-effacing axis that comes with it. If a woman gave birth through CS instead of the normal canal, she is judged to be “lazy,” weak, unfit to be a woman and in some cases, not having enough faith. In fact, I’ve read a book by a notable Christian pastor who suggests that a child born through a c-section needs deliverance prayers!

I personally, can’t understand why certain common sense issues are unnecessarily controversial in the Nigeria public space. For one, if C-Section is an aberration, why don’t we ban surgery, dental aids, wheel chairs and while at it, completely proscribe the appurtenances of modern technology? The point is, when it comes to issues that border on life-saving medical procedures, religious bias should be set aside.

Now. let me delve a bit into the supporting Bible text used to push the “Hebrew women” narrative.

In Exodus 1, Pharaoh wanted to curb the growth of the Hebrew population and he commanded the midwives to kill at birth every Hebrew boy (perhaps he planned to give Hebrew females over to Egyptians males). When the midwives were called to account for their failure in carrying out this decree, they explain that the Hebrew women are “vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive” (v. 9).

This answer was the midwives’ strategy to avoid infanticide because of their reverence for God and at the same time, evade Pharaoh’s wrath. So they put the blame on the Hebrew women to outsmart the authorities. We are not sure whether Hebrew women actually gave birth effortlessly or not.

I am pointing this out because of the way this Bible passage has been seized on and misused. There have been many cases of maternal mortality because of women who insisted on playing out “the Hebrew women.” I heard of a woman who lost her baby after hours of labour because she insisted on giving birth “like a Hebrew woman.” Sadly, that was her first issue after more than 10 years of delay.

Even if those Hebrew women gave birth effortlessly, it still can’t apply to everyone today because people and circumstances differ. Unassisted delivery does not make a mother “superior” to the one with an assisted delivery.

As long as both the baby and mother make it safely, the mode of delivery is irrelevant. While medical procedures can be fraught with unethical motives and physical risks, people shouldn’t be conditioned into developing a fanatical disposition towards embracing modern medical help when the need arrives.

Signs and Symptoms of Common Mental Issues

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Typically, people who are mentally healthy are satisfied with themselves and their life situations. A mentally healthy person also accepts reality. Hence, it’s important for us to know when our mental health has been tested. That way, you can easily ascertain that you need some help.

Most mental health practitioners adopt the statement from the American Psychiatric Association’s Manual of Mental Disorders which defines mental disorder as a group of behavioural or psychological symptoms or a pattern that manifests itself in significant distress, impaired functioning, or accentuated risk of enduring severe suffering of possible death.

In my last post, I defined what mental illness is and gave two examples. Here, I will touch on some symptoms to look out for.

Anxiety

People show anxiety in diverse ways when triggered. Some patients would even deny that they do. However, there are several indicators that signal anxiety. They are divided into:

Physiological – Appetite change, headaches, muscle tension, palpitation, skin irritation, restlessness, digestive upsets, cold and flu symptoms, fatigue or lethargy, grinding teeth and hypertension.

Relational – Isolation, resentment, “clamming up”, having few friends, distrust, loss of intimacy, lashing out and nagging.

Emotional – Forgetfulness, negative self-talk, whirling mind, poor concentration, boredom and confusion.

Spiritual – Emptiness, doubt, unforgiving attitude, martyrdom, cynicism, apathy and loss of direction.

Depression

When you experience at least five out of the following nine characteristics, with one of the first two symptoms present most of the time, clinically, you are depressed:

  1. Depressed mood
  2. Loss of pleasure or interest
  3. Weight gain or loss
  4. Sleeping difficulties
  5. Psycho-motor agitation or retardation.
  6. Fatigue
  7. Feeling worthless
  8. Inability to concentrate
  9. Thoughts of suicide or death.

A couple of years ago, a friend contacted me on Facebook asking for help for another friend who was contemplating suicide and had even informed him of when he would finally take himself out. Even though I am not a counselor or professional, from my Facebook posts on mental health issues, he felt I could offer some help.

I asked him some questions about his friend: if he’s employed; marital status, age etc. and he answered. I told him that his friend was depressed, and there are always underlying factors behind depression and we need to get to the root first. After discussing with his friend, the root was finally known: he had family problems. Thankfully, he was able to confront the issue, deal with it, beat his depression and recovered.

There is a strong link between dysfunctional family, depression and eventual suicide. So when you are assessing a person for depression, it’s necessary to first look at his/her family history. Females are also more prone to depression than males due to hormonal cycles. A lack of support system – financial, moral or emotional – can also make people slide easily into depression, and some cases, the sufferer resorts to substance abuse.

Finally, medical health records and past suicide attempts are risk factors that should also be considered. Some cases of depression are simply due to chemical imbalances in the body and this could be rectified through medication.

I also want to talk about an issue I’ve been observing a lot these days:

Anger

Anger is basically a human emotion that is experienced by all people. It is typically triggered by an emotional hurt and is usually experienced as an unpleasant feeling that occurs when we think we have been injured, opposed or when we are faced with obstacles that keep us from getting attaining personal goals.

People vary in how easily they get angry (anger threshold). Some experts suggest that the average adult gets angry about once a day. But when individuals have trouble controlling their anger or experience anger outside of a normal emotional scope, they may be suffering from anger disorders.

There’s passive anger, chronic anger, judgemental anger, overwhelmed anger, self-inflicted anger and volatile anger. Chronic anger is prolonged, can impact the immune system and can be the cause of mental disorders.

If you look through the symptoms list of various mental disorders, you will see “anger” included there. Anger is connected with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and personality disorders.

Anger can be caused by stress, financial situation, abuse, family problems and overwhelming requirements. Anger has also been found prevalent in individuals raised by parents with the disorder.

If you read through the comments of many Nigerians on social media, you can feel the undercurrent of anger. A number of people are marginalized from their national patrimony; many feel cheated by institutions; many have lost their jobs and have no safety net; many have their lost loved ones and are still grieving and many are coping with the daily stress of living in congested cities. These factors trigger people to vent their spleen at the slightest provocation.

To deal with this, some people would need to immerse themselves in something they enjoy, exercise regularly and yes, take a healthy break from boiler plate social media “discussions.” A good music can be of help too; having a good laugh and finding your spiritual base.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association, (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) 4th edition, Washington.

Brunner and Suddarth’s Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing 12th edition, 2010.

Harry Mills, What is Anger? https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/what-is-anger/

Signs and Symptoms of Anger-Related Issues – Causes and Effects https://www.psychguides.com/guides/anger-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

Awareness on Mental Well-Being

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In the last couple of years, our nation has been in a downward phase. We’ve been through a gripping economic recession (the first of its kind in decades) resulting in massive unemployment of millions of citizens, and we are currently experiencing a biting inflation.

As we struggle with the clogs in the wheels of our national progress, their ripple effects are spilling out to our public life. The tenor, quality and quantity of social media interactions have changed. Many Nigerians are unhappy, obtuse, intolerant, unnecessarily aloof and prone to violent outbursts at the drop of a hat. Worse still, the rate of suicides has surged.

More than ever before, we need to start having honest, intelligent and open conversations about our mental well-being.

Indeed, when many Nigerians hear the word “mental,” florid images of a savage man or woman spotting dreadlocks, naked, and dancing makosa in the market place stream through their minds. For so long a time, we have avoided addressing mental health issues because of the fear, superstition and stigma attached to them by society.

Yet, there are many people in our society who are at various stages of poor mental health. This “taboo” approach to mental problems is also reflective of our cultural view of human illnesses like sickle cell anaemia, HIV, cancer, epilepsy, autism, diabetes and disabilities.

In the Nigerian society, people zip up their illnesses until they completely fall apart. Many Nigerians (including the educated) have a deeply ingrained religious belief that if they don’t mention the name of a condition they are afflicted with, it will somehow make it non-existent or reduce its effects.

Again, it’s not uncommon to find a person suffering from a disease or disability being rejected, marginalised and even demonised by family and friends. There is so much fear and ignorance in our society – even in this era of enlightenment – that many people are forced to keep certain aspects of their lives tucked away in a safe box, so as not to be ostracised. This makes it quite difficult for people with mental health issues to seek and receive the help they need.

Problems are not solved by ignoring or pretending they are not there. They have to be acknowledged and directly addressed.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. The key to maintaining the state of well-being is for one to recognise one’s state of mental health, its boundaries and identify the triggers that can tip one over the line.

Mental illness can be defined as a wide range of psychiatric conditions that impact one’s mood, thinking and behaviour. That means when one feels totally overwhelmed with life or experiences moments when one comes close to despair about something in one’s life, or is struggling to manage the stress in one’s personal/work life, one’s mental health has been tested.

In other words, one doesn’t have to be mad to have mental health issues. This is why every enlightened mind must reject the erroneous and patently absurd imagery often depicted by Nollywood and a number of religious leaders about mental issues. These jaded narratives complicate matters and perpetuate the cycle of ignorance.

Mental health problems can cover a broad range of disorders, but they typically affect a person’s personality, thought process and social interactions. It can vary from the worries we all experience in our day-to-day lives to serious long-term conditions.

Most mental heath problems have traditionally been divided into:

– Neurotic disorders: these cover symptoms which can be regarded as severe forms of “normal” emotional experiences e.g depression, panic, anxiety etc.

– Psychotic disorders: these interfere with a person’s perception of reality and may include hallucinations (hearing, feeling and seeing things that no one else can). They are less common but require urgent professional intervention.

1. ANXIETY

This can be described as a feeling of nervousness or worry. It becomes a disorder when it becomes chronic, when it continues even after there is no more need to feel anxious There are 5 major types of anxiety disorders:

a) Panic disorders: sufferers can be paralysed by nervousness, worry or fear based on certain “triggers.” They tend to avoid places where they have an attack. Some become so restricted that they are housebound or need a trusted person to accompany them.

b) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: the person is consumed with a certain thought or idea (about impending accident, infection, death of loved ones etc) which produces irrational responses. Some sufferers are obsessed with germs or dirt, making them to wash their hands or take a bath over and over again. Some are obsessed with confessing their past mistakes or in need of constant reassurance of love.

c) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders: this describes a range of psychological symptoms people may experience following an extremely traumatic event that involved physical harm or the threat of such. PTSD sufferers may be easily irritable, become emotionally numb, lose interest in what they once enjoyed and even lose affection for others they used to be close to. They tend to avoid situations that remind them of the original traumatic incident.

d) Social Anxiety Disorder: this is a term used to identify people who are overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. Some sufferers have an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. This fear can become so severe that it interferes with their work, school or ordinary activities, making it hard for them to keep friends.

e) Generalized Anxiety Disorder: this describes exaggerated worries even though there is little or nothing to provoke them. Sufferers tend to anticipate disasters, are overly concerned with health, money, family issues or difficulties at work.

2. DEPRESSION

This is another common mental health problem. Its symptoms include: feelings of total worthlessness or hopelessness, drastic mood changes (from being outgoing to being withdrawn), loss of pleasure in activities previously enjoyed, loss of concentration, changes in eating or sleeping habits and suicidal ideation.

There are different types of depression:

a) Major depression: symptoms are severe enough to last for 6 months if untreated, and impacts aspects of the sufferer’s life.

b) Bipolar disorder/Manic depression: sufferers may experience emotional extremes ranging between prolonged episodes of activity (mania) and devastating lows (depression).

c) Dysthymia: the depressive symptoms make it difficult for the person to function normally.

d) Postpartum depression: a debilitating emotional condition that affects many mothers after giving birth.

e) Seasonal affective disorder: likely occurs as a result of a lack of sunlight (like during a period of prolonged rainfall). It usually clears up when the weather changes.

There are certain non modifiable risk factors for mental health problems: 
– Age
– Gender
– Genetic background
– Family history.

The modifiable risk factors include:
– Marital status
– Poverty or economic difficulties
– Family environment
– Physical health
– Nutritional status
– Stress level
– Social environment and activities
– Exposure to trauma
– Alcohol and drug misuse
– Availability, accessibility, and cost of health services.

The bottom line is: mental health problems are not so eccentric as misinformed people try to make them and its symptoms are not confined to adults. According to a study, children can also show early warnings of mental health concerns. Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old and three-fourths begin before the age of 24.

Contrary to a widely held myth, mental health problems are often diagnosable and can be a product of interaction of biological, psychological and social factors. Sufferers can be successfully treated, recover and live productive lives. They first need to be acknowledged and in serious cases, the person needs to see a professional for proper counselling.

Thankfully, some people recover by engaging in recreational activities, worthwhile self-engagement, proper social acceptance amongst friends or Christian fellowship, group therapy and talking with a trusted, mature and/or non-judgemental individual.

Nevertheless, it’s vital for us all to have awareness on these matters before painting them with a broad brush.

Sources

National Institute of Mental Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Gloria Ogunbadejo, Mental Health Matters, Sunday PUNCH, October 18, 2015.

Brunner and Suddarth’s Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing, 12th edition (2010).

Mental Health Myths and Facts www.mentalhealth.gov

 

Dear Buhari: Youths will Stand and Kick you Out

I had noted a twisted tradition Buhari has adhered to right from the beginning of his administration, namely, his obvious disdain for the electorates – his primary constituency – and national media outlets for foreign audiences and foreign media outlets. It’s clear that this man is an uncle Tom of some sort. A man who loves to appease his white masters by demeaning his own people.

Whether it’s his infamous 97% -5% statement in the United States; his “my-wife-belongs-to-the-other-room” remark in Germany (ironically uttered while standing next to one of the powerful women in the world); his assent to “Nigerians are fantastically corrupt” in the UK, to his “Nigerians are criminals” salvo in the same country, almost each time Buhari speaks about his policies and issues germane to Nigerians in foreign countries, he makes it a point of duty to trample on the head of the masses to project himself as the messiah.

In his speech during the Commonwealth Business Forum in Westminster yesterday, he opened his mouth again and guess what came out of it:

About the economy, we have a very young population, our population is estimated conservatively to be 180 million … More than 60 percent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free” – The Cable.

Now, this is not the first time this power-hungry geriatric – a man who used the heads of Nigerian youths as ladders into power – has openly given away his condescension. Remember last year, during his speech in Abakaliki, he infantilised the opinions of Nigerian youths on secession when he said we weren’t born when he fought for Nigeria’s unity. Such rhetoric is a party line among the snobbish cult of Nigerian elders.

For years, many Nigerian youths have been used as willing turncoats and convenient tools by political big wigs whose children are safely ensconced abroad, and in return, their lives are wasted, their national patrimony plundered and the remnants of their dignity are left to the birds. Since our independence till date, we keep recycling old men and their relatives as leaders, while the circuit remains closed to new, intelligent and energetic youths.

One would have to be blind (in ways more than one) and simultaneously jaundiced to look across the length and breadth of Nigeria and not find a good number of morally sound, educated and bright Nigerian youths to fill an entire cabinet of positions.

Mind you, Buhari’s speech is an embodiment of Nigeria’s governing philosophy: to mooch on national resources and in exchange, defecate on the same people whose blood and sweat fund their housing, clothing, healthcare and transportation.

Was it Buhari’s earnings from his cattle farm that he deployed to send his children abroad for education? What business does Yusuf Buhari manages to own an exotic hotel in UAE? Where did he get the money to acquire a power-bike worth $157,000. That money could have bought vaccines for hundreds of Meningitis-infected people in Zamfara.

Yesterday, I was bemused that some youths with pretense at education are still defending Buhari because they share the same religion, speak the same language or belong to the same political party. Well I say: Shame on you all! Your God-given brain has been “buharilised” by gerontological flatulence.

During the 2015 campaigns, when critics pointed at Buhari’s failed candidacy due to his old age, lack of educational qualification and evasion of presidential debate – something unheard of in any sane clime – many Nigerian youths rushed to social media platforms to defend him. They posted articles, brandished all the grammars in the dictionary and heaped tons of invective on their opponents. Now they have their rewards.

Sorry folks, you were used again. I can imagine Buhari sitting in his condo and smiling like Tinky-Winky for a job well done.

One can still pardon the youths who were deceived to vote for an inept man in 2015 but how can one pardon educated youths who have their five senses working and a functioning brain between their ears who still have the nerve to type apologia for this administration? To err is human but to repeat it, is stupid.

How much stupidity is enough, dear Buharists? No matter what you say, Buhari doesn’t know you exist. As far as he’s concerned you are at best, a statistic on his paper. You and his children are not co-evals. They will never live where you live, receive healthcare in the public hospitals you use or school where you school. They don’t have to lift a single finger before they get employed in blue chip companies, own real estate and purchase luxury both here and abroad.

Even in the UK where Buhari gave his speech, they don’t joke with their youth population. Their government has plans for them – from education to healthcare to social welfare to security. Go figure.

First, every Nigerian youth should get a PVC. Second, enough of blind loyalty to politicians. They must be questioned, scrutinised, criticised and thoroughly engaged on their vision and plan for youths before we cast our votes for them.

Finally, Buhari’s disdain for Nigerian youths will be his undoing this time. Since we make up more than 60 per cent of the population, we will show him that we don’t sit down and do nothing. We have the power to kick out useless leaders who swallow camels and excrete their remnants on our heads.