Depression: There's a culture of silence around the mental health of young Nigerian men

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We live in a country where the only things that qualify as illnesses are those things that put you in a bed andput a drip in your arm.

The pressure to make something of themselves in a country that barely works has thrown many young Nigerian men into crippling anxiety and manic depression. Yet, a culture of silence has suppressed the topic; no-one is talking about it.

Nigeria is not a place for the weak and fickle.

It is a place where more dreams die than are actualised and many of the people who live here look to foreign lands in the hope that they can graze on the other side where the grass is greener.

Depression is a Nigerian taboo

It is perhaps why most people are more interested in the tangible than the not-so-tangible. Nobody has time for American diseases, like depression or anxiety.

 

The sad fact is that our failure to talk about depression is slowly killing us. We live in a country where the only things that qualify as illnesses are those things that put you in a bed and hang your hand on a platform with water running through your body.

So, on our streets, we have people working around, going about their daily lives, struggling with self-doubt and depression with very little avenues to find help or anyone to acknowledge their circumstance.

The even sadder thing is that we are creating a culture where dealing with depression is perfectly okay.

Young Nigerian men are under immense pressure

It is somewhat ironic because the pressure to get by is crippling, to say the least, and while everyone has their own share of it, arguably no other demographic feels this more than young Nigerian men.

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Nigeria is a very patriarchal society; the structure of the average Nigerian family is enough proof of this fact.

Father makes money, the mother takes care of family, kids, well, they kid around.

One of the biggest implications is that young men are made aware of the role they will need to play at a young age and many are thrust into it before they are even ready.

 

As soon as they begin to inch towards the end of their education, parents begin to mention the proverbial “fruit of their labour”, while throwing expenses from left, right and centre.

There’s the anticipation of marriage, the need to become self-sufficient, the desire to accomplish childhood ambitions; together, it is a dense mix that can overwhelm even the most productive of us.

According to the figures released by the World Health Organisation in 2017, 3.9 percent of Nigeria’s population, that is 7,079,815 people suffer from depression.

This is not a problem that is imagined, it is real and present.

So, why are we not talking about it?

Our society builds the idea of the Nigerian man as an infallible bastion of strength. He is supposed to be a provider, a macho figure who is always up for the challenge, regardless of whatever he has to deal with.

The Nigerian man is supposed to be a carrier of burdens, not the man who draws other people’s attention to his own.

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In a bid to not appear weak, young Nigeria men unhealthily suppress their problems. It is why the culture of silence spreads from marital troubles to mental health.

 

If a Nigerian man has a problem, he deals with it, he doesn’t become a cry-baby.

Also, there’s the issue of how Nigerians generally perceive mental health. When one talks about mental health issues, you are more likely to get referred to get spiritual health than what actually works,

Add that to the fact that there are very few avenues for persons to find therapy and other solutions to their mental health problems and you begin to get an idea of the picture.

For the men who suffer these issues and are unable to talk about them, the implications can be disastrous.

Some fight it until nothing makes any sense and they take their own lives. Others live in a perpetual state of irritability that affects their daily lives and relationships.

Others lash out at everything and everyone until they are alone; a lonely island, surrounded by endless waters.

Think about the fact that you've met hundreds of sick young men since the year began. If we are to help them, we must first let them know that it is okay to talk.



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