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Your wife or husband could be a mental health patient

Borno Govt, World Bank train 200 medics on psychosocial support services

Every October 10, is World Mental Health Awareness Day. I decided to write about mental health in our society on world mental health awareness day 2022, though you are reading the article three days after the commemoration day.

Mental health is a global phenomenon, but the reality of it is still primordial in Africa, especially in Nigeria, where we tend to over-spiritualise everything. A cough, sneeze, or sudden death is the handwork of the witches and wizards without cognisance of the victims’ physical and mental health or lifestyle.

Mental health is everyone’s business. Everyone is susceptible to one form of a mental health problem or the other. Everyone has a mental health issue but with different triggers and limits. In Africa, our spirituality is an advantage. Our beliefs in God in various dimensions and the eternal hope of a better tomorrow have increased our limits and boundaries, reduced suicides and reported cases of mental illness that are not attributed to witches and wizards.

However, the rate of domestic violence and suicidal attempts is increasing due to uncertainty about tomorrow and extreme economic hardship imposed by the bad leadership and management of national resources. Our graduates are jobless, unmarried, and becoming irresponsible. Why wouldn’t they be easily susceptible to mental health problems?

Segregating or stereotyping people with displayed mental health symptoms is not the way to go. We should accept them just like the way we have taken bad drivers on our roads

I have used the word ”your wife or husband” to showcase how close you are to someone with a mental health problem. One out of five people in your neighbourhood, office, church, mosque, shrine, or other inner cycle is battling with one form of mental health or the other, including you. We all have mental health issues that could be triggered any time, except we are aware of our boundaries, limits, or precautions.

Mental health problems are the sickness of the mind and emotions. The awareness and knowledge will enable us to be less judgemental and empathise with the people around us.

Your wife or husband could be a mental health patient waiting for manifestation. Take, for example, your wife, who is solely dependent on you, yet will, on occasion, feel so high in mood and presentation to questions all you are good about without any thought of reprisal from you. Take, for example also, a man whose wife is the breadwinner and whose efforts should be appreciated, yet the man will come back home moody and shouting at everyone as if he is the lord of the rings.

For men, it could be understandable, based on cultural orientation, that men are the head of the family. However, anything devoid of reasonableness in mood and presentation cannot be without any underlying mental health influences.

Mental health illnesses include anxiety disorders, bipolar, psychosis, eating disorders, mood disorders, depression, and personality disorders. Post-stress traumatic diseases, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many more. There is a need for everyone to have a basic knowledge of the types and likely unusual behaviours that indicate the possible presence of someone with an underlying mental health problem.

The common characteristic of all these disorders is that they start from an imbalance in the patient’s thoughts and mind. They are mainly genetically induced or socially and environmentally induced. The role of the minds, thinking and thought patterns is crucial, and so also the minds of people around the victims. If a man runs mad in the village and his child follows suit, the tendency to alienate the family and castrate them in society is high.

Let’s focus on your wife or husband’s episodes you need to understand and support in managing. I will be describing some variants of bipolar disorders to make my points and bolster the need for you to be empathic for people around you.

One form of bipolar is Mania. You got home one day, and your wife is so excited, over-happy, and full of energy with an overinflated sense of self. An argument ensued among the family members, and she felt easily irritated.

She makes pronouncements that make her look ungrateful for all your efforts. She might even tell you; you are lucky to have married her because you are not her match, and she wonders if you use ”juju” for her. She threatened to leave the marriage one day and take care of the five children alone. The heights of the feeling of her self-importance were her plans to leave you despite having nowhere to go and no family to support her financially. Yet, you wonder if this is the same person you were in conviviality with a few days ago.

Read also: World Suicide Week, World Mental Health Day, and all that

She had passed through an episode of mental presentation with a heightened over-inflated ego with delusional, illogical thinking and saying things that are out of character, which she will later deny not having said after the episode. The mania episode could last for days, with her singing against you in the house until three days later when she returned to her calm self and normal state of mind.

Your husband was home and was full of praise for his boss and company for his promotion to the next level. He had planned a trip with you and your children to celebrate his long-awaited promotion. You felt he is now enjoying his job and his new department, only for a change in the episode to occur. He enters a depressive mood complaining about how life has been unfair to him. His thoughts and feelings are dominated by guilt for past mistakes, worthlessness, or emptiness.

He immediately became a pessimist with high self-doubt and lost interest in everyday activities. As expected, he abandoned his favourite team and did not watch his favourite champions league game with your son. He is delusional, hallucinating, disturbed with illogical thinking and an unexpressed suicidal thought. He is depressed and needs help rather than facing your condemnation as an ungrateful man to God and life. Your unbridled razor mouth will do him more harm at this time.

Now we know that mental health illnesses are in all of us, waiting for triggers to manifest themselves to a certain degree. Segregating or stereotyping people with displayed mental health symptoms is not the way to go. We should accept them just like the way we have taken bad drivers on our roads.

Suppose you follow the words of the Nigerian Road Safety Corps at a time. In that case, you are advised to see all other drivers on the road as mad people and take extra precautions to prevent affordable motor accidents. That same mindset of acceptance and support should be given to your wife or husband, closer to you than any other mad driver on the roads of Nigeria. Your wife or husband could be a mental health patient, and they are everywhere. Let’s help our toxic environment by helping people with mental health issues. Let’s be vulnerable to one another.

One word I will leave with you before I share ways of helping people to avoid triggering their mental health problems is ”empathy.”

Until you read this column next week, show empathy to your husband or wife with a record of mood shifts and unstable emotions. Empathy is key to all we do as part of an interdependent society.