Tade is a young Nigerian graduate who was posted to a state in another region of the country for his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program. He was excited about traveling and exploring the new environment and culture during the 12-month NYSC. He was assigned to a high school as his primary place of assignment (PPA). He liked the challenge because he always liked teaching and wanted to mentor young students. When Tade arrived at the school, he was warmly welcomed and offered accommodation. Apparently the school didn’t have a teacher for his subject and they were very happy to have him. They didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable so that he wouldn’t decide to leave the school. But leaving was the last thing on his mind. He soon immersed himself in the work and loved every minute of it.
Things got harder with the passage of time. He found it difficult to cope with three groups of students (SS1 to SS3) and at the same time give intensive supervision to the SS3 senior class. He became severely stressed, anxious and ate irregularly, felt weak, had difficulty concentrating and generally had difficulty performing his duties. He went to the clinic, where he was treated for malaria, but after that he didn’t feel better. His fiancé was concerned and advised him to see a mental health professional as he may be depressed. He was shocked at first, but eventually accepted the proposal. He was seen, started on medication and therapy and he quickly returned to his usual self. The dark clouds disappeared and he was happy and refreshed again.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which the individual recognizes his or her abilities, can cope with normal stress, work productively and fruitfully, and contribute to the community”, while health itself is defined as the ‘ state of complete physical, mental and social well-being’. However, most of us pay a lot of attention to our physical health, but often neglect our mental and social well-being.
Let’s look at the following questions: How do you deal with your daily stress?
What do you do to relax? How do you deal with it when you’re angry, frustrated, and fed up? Who do you talk to when you feel down or tired? How often do you intentionally perform self-care activities? How are you coping with your meltdown?
After answering the above questions, would you say you are doing a great job maintaining and promoting your mental health? If your answer is no, the following tips can help you:
Invest in human relationships.
Spend quality time with your family and loved ones.
Relax and enjoy the everyday pleasure of life. They are usually simple and free.
Avoid drug or substance abuse as a coping strategy
Free your weekends; do what you like, and that is relaxing on the weekend.
Get regular exercise, they help to de-stress and also improve your mood.
Develop your emotional intelligence and be kind to others. Not only does it help others feel good, but it also makes you feel good.
Be kind to yourself; don’t be too critical of yourself.
Enjoy life and be grateful for the gift of each day, as well as for small and large favors
Stay grounded and humble; no one is indispensable. Don’t hold onto grudges, real or perceived contempt. They will make you feel miserable. Let go and free your mind.
Seek help from mental health professionals if needed; there’s no shame in seeking help for your mental health, it’s just as important as your physical health.
Where can I get mental health care if I need it?
Mental health services are accessible from the psychiatry departments of any teaching hospital, federal medical center, state specialty hospitals, and from specialty neuropsychiatric hospitals present in every geopolitical region of Nigeria. And you can also contact helplines such as those of the Suicide Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (SURPIN): 09080217555, 09034400009, 08111909909 and 07013811143 or the Asido Foundation Helpline for Individuals with Emotional Distress: 09028080416.
Promoting and preserving our mental health should be a conscious endeavor. We simply cannot leave it to chance. There are simple steps we can take to improve our emotional well-being and that of others around us. We all need each other and everyone needs a shoulder to lean on from time to time. And if you or someone you know is really struggling with their mood or mental health in general, don’t hesitate to encourage them to seek professional mental health care immediately. There is no health without mental health.