My sister's response to a FaceBook post about the young man (a doctor) who jumped over the bridge in Lagos, Nigeria. Although the cause of this suicidal action is unknown, many people have related it to mental-health and I agree with that perspective.
"Mental health is an issue that is prevalent in the nation but often overlooked. We are all taught from young to 'do boldface' and go on ignoring our emotions as if they are not part of us. As a result, we bring up many individuals that flourish intellectually but suffer emotionally. Again, it is sad that it is almost normal to see a mentally challenged person roaming the streets naked from time to time while we all look on, like its not an issue. Our youth suffer from all sorts of problems ranging from stress to addictions to depression, anxiety and having being taught to have a stoic demeanor irrespective, they languish in silence until they are forced to jump off our many bridges. Again, its sad that jumping off the bridge has almost become normal. The lack of institutions in the nation that cater to the soul starting from the family, the church and as an institution on its own also adds to this issue. I can go on about this as it is a topic that touches my heart deeply. However, I hope we pay more attention to our mental well-being in the coming years as much as we do our physical well-being."
- Shoola Ifeoluwa
After doing a year internship in a program about mental health, catering for my emotional health became more important to me. I started going for therapy at my college more because it was free and helpful to my functioning as a student and as a human being. The need to learn how to take emotional health as serious as we take our physical health dawned on me. Also, although I will not say that secularism should replace religion, it baffles me when Nigerian's especially share their emotional problems and the next thing that someone will say is "go and pray about it" or "have you seen your pastor." The roles of the church, the pastor, religion and spirituality is very important but there are somethings that are fixed better in the hands of those that are specifically skilled. If your child does not know how to spell or do addition in mathematics, do you say, have you seen the pastor? No, you take the child to school because he needs to learn it and that is an institution that can equip him eloquently that way. The same applies to mental health.
Also, I think that for men especially, we should stop teaching and expecting them to be 'emotionally stiff' and non-responsive to situations. We need to give them a break. We have certain fixed expectations of men in terms of responsibilities and behaviors that does not give room for them to express themselves. We rob many young boys of their childhood and of their emotions by expecting them to "be men" at very young ages and it is not fair. We overlook the high suicide rate of men, especially in times of economic recessions, rather than aim to balance gender expectations to ease their burden. Yes, suicide rate for women is high as well, but men are more likely to choose options that gives no room for recovery like jumping over the bridge and these things need to be fixed.
Cater for your own mental health. We all, don't always have the best days or feel good but what is not okay is when it happens more often and you refuse to see a counselor or specialist about it. Let this issue of mental health be the new gossip in town and let us create awareness and talk about it more often. When you call your friends, family members and co-workers, irrespective of age, don't just ask them how are they doing, ask them how they feel about how they are doing? Do they really feel good or do they want to talk? Mental and emotional health, growth and development is key to efficient functioning of individuals in our societies and it needs to be acknowledged.