Depression is a serious medical illness that influences how one feels, behaves and thinks. Over 7 million Nigerians are depressed, this is more common than we think and social media has brought us closer to recognize this fact. Major life-changing events such as bereavement, accident, terminal illness can lead to depression. It is a mood disorder but quite different from the feeling of sadness we get from facing daily life challenges.
Depression is characterized by symptoms such as
- Social withdrawal
- Reduced energy
- Feeling of worthlessness
- Loss of interest
- Poor sleeping and eating habit
Depression causes significant impairment in the daily life of the affected person. They may withdraw from their family, also may be distracted from work and perform badly in school. People with depression also may have consistent suicidal thoughts.
Depression is a mental illness that would not just go away, it requires treatment. Are the right people treated?
Depression is culturally stereotyped in Nigeria. A lot of people also believe Nigerians are fun-loving people, ‘happy people’ and as such cannot be depressed or commit suicide. Thanks to social media that has brought us closer to information about this illness, and many people living with it, some who committed suicide due to lack of treatment. Although there is still not much access to people living with depression in rural areas.
Depression has to be diagnosed by a medical practitioner but do people with depression have access to mental health services? As pointed out by Olabisi Odejide and Jide Morakinyo in the Mental health and primary care in Nigeria article, Nigeria has less than 100 psychiatrists with a majority of them in private practice. Most of these practices are located in urban areas. Now seven million Nigerians with depression to a hundred psychiatrists, that is huge.
With the available number of these health practitioners in the private sector and the level of poverty in Nigeria, do individuals have the funds to get services in the private sector? Low social-economic status is a risk factor for depression.
All these pose a huge challenge for depression to be tackled, to get affected persons treated. Now asides from sending ‘love and light’ on twitter and other social media platforms. We must be emotionally available for one another.
However, there are organizations such as Neem foundation, Mentally aware Nigeria initiative, She Writes Woman, Love, Peace and mental health foundation that can connect one to help. Let us help us to tackle depression!