We were all seated together at a huge table, old colleagues gathered to honour one of ours who had been given a chieftaincy title. Many of us left the company where we had all met many years ago. It was good to see everyone after such a long time.
As usual, with gatherings like this, talk moved from the good old times, to politics, to the economy to the state of the nation. We noticed one of us as just quiet…afterwards, this Quiet one excused himself and left.
Then it was whispered around the table… “The guy don dey kolo after hin son die.”
After the Quiet one left, every other person avoided his empty seat like it had become diseased. In fact, when it was announced he was suffering from mental health challenges, one lady who had sat with him practically dragged her seat away from the empty seat. It was an unconscious act but it happened!
Even among learned people, the issue of mental illness, especially the type brought on by trauma, depression, anxiety or by loss of a loved one, people still treat survivors like they caught a contagious disease.
There’s a worldwide stigma against people suffering from mental illness. Nigeria is one of the countries where, to mention anyone suffering from such is to label them a walking deadly virus.
We learned that our Quiet friend had been taken to church and some pastor had been able to help him back on his feet.
Now, when you hear things like this, you want to assume the reason people go to churches or mosques or even traditional medicine men, when they suffer mental health breakdown, is because there’s a stigma attached to it.
Yaba left is a lingo we all understand to refer to the Psychiatric Hospital in Yaba; to be told to go “yaba left” is actually an insult. It implies the person is mentally sick. So many Nigerians hide under the garb of religion, they can’t reveal they are seeing psychiatric doctors, “heaven forbid,” “not my portion!”
But even if there are people who genuinely want to see real doctors at the few Psychiatric hospitals we have in the country, where are the doctors?
According to the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, there are currently some 250 doctors serving in the country!
A country of 200 million souls.
The ratio of doctor to patient can only be imagined considering more Nigerians are breaking down more than ever before from depression, trauma and anxiety. All thanks to the extreme social-economic challenges the country is currently facing; from kidnappings to armed robbery attacks, from loss of jobs to high cost of living, it’s no wonder many people aren’t coping any more.
I heard a most upsetting story about a father who took his son to a private university after getting frustrated with the endless ASUU strike.
The father had raised the half semester fees the university required. He was allowed to pay 50% upon resumption; 30% before exams and 20% before resumption of the new semester. I guess the school understands the pressure parents are under, given the economic situation of the country.
However, the father miscalculated; though he had paid half of the fees which could have got his son into the hostel upon registration. The school required health care fees, charges they said is separate from the tuition and accommodation.
Therefore, the boy was refused entry into the hall. The father was told to pay N100k to cover the medical fees. It was getting dark, the father had to return that very day to Lagos.
He pleaded, saying he didn’t have the money and didn’t have any idea how to raise it on the spot. I don’t know if he promised to pay the following day. I’m guessing he didn’t, which is why the hall administrators were adamant and eventually asked the father to take his son back to Lagos.
The father lost it!
There was no going back to Lagos with the boy. That’ll mean extra expenses the father didn’t plan for and didn’t have at that time. As all pleas had fallen on deaf ears; the man flung himself on the at the guards screaming. His aggressive behavior led the school’s authorities to escort him to a safe place.
I couldn’t get more details on the story but as a parent, I can imagine that at that point in time, the man may have exhausted all he had to get his son to school. Who knows, he may have taken a loan, sold a few items just to ensure his son would have uninterrupted education. The long ASUU strike has taken its toll on parents, students and their lecturers, no one is unscathed, except of course the federal Government wielding the big stick.
I hear someone say of the father, “Must he do pass himself?”
Like I said before, I don’t know how come he didn’t have the extra N100,000.00 but I do know I have had more than a few occasions where money is needed and I just couldn’t raise it immediately.
But father aside, the son, I heard, was eventually let into the hall of residence. I heard the boy was later being treated like he was leprous by some of his classmates who think he could also suddenly attack them the way they saw his father display.
That’s double jeopardy; the son is being shamed for his father’s illness.
Who says mental illness is infectious and can be caught simply by being a human being to another who breaks down?
I hope the boy gets past this, I hope the father gets help, more importantly, I hope we educate more people that mental sickness is not contagious.