MYTHS AND CONCEPTION ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS

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By Sanni Shukurat, Bankole Aderenle

One out of three youths in Nigeria suffer from mental health at some point in life. This usually concern stressed related, mood and anxiety which are debilitating illness. According to reports, mental illness are only diagnosed when a person suffers from a certain number of symptoms of psychological distress.

Mental health according to the World Health Organization (WHO), refers to as a state of well being to which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, watch out productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health ” is not just the absence of mental disorder, it includes our emotional, psychological and social well being.

Mental health affects how we think, feel and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is inherent at every stage in life, from childhood to adulthood and mental health problems can affect anyone at any age.

In the words of one of the victims of mental illness, she said;

“I am now at a stage in life where I cannot afford to go through stress neither can I afford to sit doing nothing. I cannot even engage in things I love to do anymore. It is really that bad when I have to spend more than half the hours of the day having extreme headache and tiredness. Now, I think I am suffering from some form of mental illness I am yet to identify”, says Adewunmi , a 19-year old student of Lagos State University.

According to a consultant psychiatrist, Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Dapo Adegbaju, mental illness can affect anybody irrespective of gender, race, lineage, religion, socio-economic status and it is usually caused by psycho-social factors. It is real and has affected quite a number of people.

In the same vein, a clinical psychologist at the Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Mrs. Oluwakemi Akintoyose, stated that, mental illness can be mild or severe.

The mild mental illness include stress related mental disorder, anxiety disorder, affective and learning disorder while the severe mental illness include hallucination and other brain related issues.

Also, Mrs. Oluwakemi explained that, some of the causes of mental illness include life experience, traumatic experience, distruptional family, child abuse, negative thoughts, sexual abuse and restlessness.

Contrarily, a psychologist at the American Hub centre, Yaba, Mrs Maureen Ikeji, said that mental illness affect Higher Institution Students the most as they suffer from severe levels of stress, symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“Excessive levels of academic stress can result in an increased prevalence of psychological and physical problems like depression, anxiety, nervousness and stress related disorders, which in turn can affect their academic performance”, she added.

According to her, mental and behavioural disorder are present at any point in time in about 10% of the adult population world wide. The burden of mental stress is maximal in young adults, the most productive section of the population.

She added that, social environment also plays an important role in mental health, which include how people communicate about psychological issues.

Nurse Wendy Amaechi, commenting on the issue, said, one of the greatest myth about mental health is that people think the problem is rare, whereas health care professionals work really hard to support these people so they can fit into the society.

People think those with mental health problems are generally downtrodden but the fact still remains that the only way to get help is to talk to someone you trust, such as your family and friends, as well as to health professionals, she said.

Dr. Dapo, emphasized that, mental illness is not caused by witches and wizards, it is not transmissible and it is curable as against the popular beliefs that it is not.

Dr. Francis Toluse, a Residence Officer from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) said, many factors contribute to mental illness. These may include stress, bereavement, relationship breakdown, unemployment, social isolation, a major physical illness, physical and sexual abuse, or disability.

Also, there are different categories of mental illness which include; organic mental disorder, mental and behavioural disorder due to substance taken, syzhophenia, anxiety disorder, dyslexia and personality disord .

The most important thing is that most people with mental stress recover quickly and do not need hospital care. Others may have short admissions to hospital for treatment. Only a very small number of people with mental illness need hospital care. Improvements in treatment means that there is no need for the confinement and isolation that was commonly used in the past, he concluded.

In a chat with Mrs. Atofojomo Omolade, a representative from Dayo Ladi-Omotunde, one of the leading Counsellor and psychologist in Nigeria, she disclosed that, there are many myths, misunderstandings, stereotypes and attitudes that surround mental illness. These result in the judgement, discrimination, and isolation of people with mental illness, as well as their families and loved ones. Omolade however pointed that, mental illness are illnesses just like any other physical illness and as such deserve sympathy, support, and flowers given to people with physical illnesses to cheer them.

In the same vein, Dr. Jeehad Akintola from LUTH said, traumatic experiences such as distress, extreme sadness abuse, loss, forced migration, bullying or rejection are some of things that cause mental distress, she however added that, treatment, support, counselling and peer support can be of great help to victims.Often times people believe that there is no hope for people with mental illness. There is this shared belied that people with mental illness may never recover.

However, studies have shown that people with mental problems get better and may never recover completely. There are more treatments, services and community support systems and they work. Watch out for one or more of the following feelings or behaviors as they can be an early warning sign of mental illness. Some of them include: pulling away from people and usaul activities, feeling helpless, yelling or fighting with friends and families, experiencing severe mood swings, thinking if harming others or yourself, inability to perform daily tasks, eating it sleeping too much or too little and many more. Thus, it is necessary we watch out for these signs and thus promoting the social well being if people. It is also imperative to note that, mental illness has little or nothing to do with the kind of food we eat.

Speaking with the principal catering officer, Federal neuro psychiatric hospital, Mrs Qudrah Badru, she said, mentally disturbed people can eat anything except tea because it can stimulate them and hence they are advised to refrain from any substance that has caffeine in it.

Experts say we all have the potential to develop mental health problems, no matter how old we are, whether we are male or female, rich or poor, or which ethnic group we belong to. And a large proportion of the people who have a mental disorder have more than one.

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