A great challenge writers contend with from time to time is trying to keep emotional attachment or feelings at bay so the piece can be objective as possible. In this case, I do not care. With that being said, there would be a lot of talking, all you have to do is listen.
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We’re in a time of misplaced priorities. A time when paying attention to physical strength supersedes mental frailty. A time where people- young and old are wired to believe seeking help or speaking about how you feel is a sign of weakness or vulnerability. We’re in an interesting time where depression is seen and treated as a spiritual attack rather than a mental disease. Now we’re receiving the rewards, the World Health Organization (WHO) has crowned Nigeria as the most depressed African state with over 7 million diagnosed with the condition some still think is a “spiritual attack”. You might wonder how we got to this time; I’ll tell you how.
We got here due to our own negligence; due to Mr E growing up to learn that as a man, society expects him to be the man and deal with all his problems himself, showing no sign of emotion or weakness whatsoever (bottle it up soldier!). We are here due to Pastor & Mrs O. casting and binding their entire “village people” instead of seeking help every time their 9-year-old child seems unhappy or ill. We are here due to Ms N’s friends constantly reminding her “Girl… this country is hard for everyone if you are depressed, me too I am depressed”. We are here due to everyone chanting the slogan “I’m here if you want to talk, suicide isn’t the answer” but in reality, they are not actually there, neither do they have an answer. We got here by our actions and inactions because many of us still hold misconceptions about this epidemic.
One click on the internet and you would find an influx of information and definitions on depression, stating the cause, symptoms and possibly solutions: This, however, is not one of those articles. I am only here to give insight through personal experience on how depression works, what you need to change before you can help as much as you want to and give light and hope to those that need it.
It’s sad that in this part of the world depression wasn’t seen as a thing years ago until it became a full-blown menace. Even at this current stage, there are some people who still believe it’s just a facade to seek sympathy. Nigeria is currently ranked as the 15th most suicidal nation in the world with the major cause leaning towards depression, is this then what some call a “facade?”. Some believe if an individual is suffering a breakdown then speaking up is the only way he could get help. This is valid, but have you also considered the other side of the prism that shows the extent to which our society has been hard-wired into making it nearly impossible for one to seek help without being reminded that it’s also hard for everyone and he needs to tighten up and face his own problems?
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Some people have their heart in the right place when it comes to looking out and trying to help those going through depression, but the problem remains that majority really do not understand what this epidemic is and you cannot help cure what you do not understand. Let me clear this up, depression is a mental illness, it is not, however, a sudden disease, as some might believe it to be. I see it as cancer; one that grows within and because you aren’t paying attention, starts eating you up without you knowing something is having a feast inside of you. From personal experience and contrary to popular belief, an individual does not have to look unkempt or dress shabbily before you believe he might be going through something. One could be at their best, looking all prim and proper, giving the biggest smile, the tightest hug and then they come to you saying they need help and the first thing you say is “ahh, fresh guy like you, you cannot be sad, see how clean you are” (wrong move chief, wrong move). Understand that physical appearance has nothing to do with mental issues. The first lesson for you: Be sensitive.
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Prior to the build-up of this message, I stumbled on an article by Chris Okoro speaking on this issue and taking it from the perspective of how the majority of African parents do not help this problem because they attach it to something else. I remember being at a friend’s house and his mom came home to tell us a story of how her colleague’s daughter was taken to a prayer house for deliverance after a failed attempt to take her own life. My friend and I looked at each other and just smiled without saying a word because we knew if we’d said what she needs is medical help first, that would become an argument we would not win. Using parents as a case study (does not exempt the fact that some young people think along the same line too) before you could offer help or give solution, understand that depression is not a spiritual attack. It is not because they didn’t fast last week and it is not because their “village people” have finally reached their case file. It is because something isn’t right mentally and they need medical help. It is as simple as that. Now that you understand how depression works, you could go ahead and help stop this menace. In the meantime, I have another message for whoever needs it.
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There is an eighty percent chance you have probably read what I am about to tell you more than a hundred times today so you might not be interested and I totally understand. However, the fact that you’ve read my “gibberish” up to this stage and you are still reading shows that deep down somewhere within that large heart, you believe all I am saying is true. You have probably read articles and heard from friends that you should seek help and the favourite slogan “I am here if you need to talk”, I do not know if they mean it, neither do I know if you’ve tried, but what I do know is that you can try again and again and again. Whatever it is that got you into this state I need you to believe that you can get out of it and the great part about it is you do not have to do it alone. I could help (believe me, I’ve been there; that story would be for another day), those lovely friends could help, a family could help, medical professionals could help but you need to push the first button; the-help-me-button. Past experience might make you believe this battle is yours to fight alone, I understand and I am deeply sorry you had to go through such, it’s not your fault and it never has been, we are here now to help.
FOR A TIME LIKE THIS: WHEN YOU ARE BEAT DOWN
It is hard, I know. You’ve been struggling, I know. It seems like all hope is lost, it actually isn’t. I need you to believe just one more time in humanity, believe that you are a star and you aren’t done shining. Reach out to me if you want to talk (my email and number is below). I need to strongly believe that reaching out doesn’t show you are weak or fragile, no, it shows you’re strong and it shows you believe there is a bright light inside of you that the world hasn’t seen but you are ready to show them. Depression is not a death sentence neither is it a cross you have to carry alone; Get help.
Peace and Light,