Psychologists have advised members of the public to pay more attention to their mental health to protect themselves from the challenges and to reduce the increasing cases of the disorders in the country.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental health is a critical component of health and that is why health is referred to as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, according to WHO.
The psychologists said certain habits and the social stigma attached with seeking help or speaking to a mental health professional have predisposed and worsened mental health conditions in the country.
The chairman of the Nigerian Psychological Association, Federal Capital Territory Chapter, Dr Emmanuel Alhassan, in a statement to mark this year’s World Mental Health Day, which comes up tomorrow, October 10th said if mental health issues are tackled as soon as they occur, they may not degenerate to mental illnesses.
“A common problem with the mental health system is the social stigma attached to seeking help or speaking to a mental health professional. If mental health issues are tackled as soon as they occur, they may not degenerate to mental illnesses,” he said.
He said most Nigerians often comment that “they are not mad” when asked to attempt behavioral assessments with mental health experts.
He said some areas people should pay attention to include the need to live within their means.
Dr Emmanuel Alhassan said some people enroll their children in schools which they cannot afford the school fees and it becomes a burden for them; some stay on in abusive relationships instead of staying away for some time until it is resolved, or borrow money they can’t pay thus putting themselves under stress. “Most of these issues come from inability to manage stress. People should learn to seek professional help rather than bottling it. So they don’t slide into mental health challenges,” he said
Comprehensive behavioral assessments help psychologists to identify mental health disorders or some imbalance such as: sleep disorders, work life integration, burnout, and anxiety. These assessments help them provide recommendations that prevent mental illnesses, Dr Emmanuel Alhassan said.
The psychologist said almost all human beings have the potential to develop mental health problems at one point or the other, “no matter how old, whether male or female, rich or poor, or the ethnic group they belong to.”
He said some mental health disorders include anxiety disorder such as panic disorder, phobias obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Others include mood disorders such as depression, Bipolar disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder.
Mental health researchers and practitioners have also found other mental health issues like substance use disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, he added.
While saying that it is not possible to reliably tell whether someone is developing a mental health problem, certain signs such as the ones below appear in a short space of time, may offer clues:
• Withdrawing from people or activities they would normally enjoy.
• Sleeping or eating too much or too little.
• Feeling as if nothing matters.
• Consistently low energy.
• Using drugs more than normal (including alcohol and nicotine).
• Displaying uncharacteristic emotions.
• Not being able to complete standard tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal.
• Persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly.
• Thinking of harming one’s self or others.
• Hearing voices.
Dr Alhassan who is also a senior lecturer at the Department of Psychology, Nasarawa State University, said World Mental Health Day (October 10) is celebrated as a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma, adding that the history of World Mental Health Day can be traced as far back as 1992 as an initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) with the aim of educating the public on relevant mental health issues. In some countries, the day is celebrated as part of a mental health week.
According to Dr Alhassan, the Nigerian Psychological Association (NPA) participates actively in the celebration of the World Mental Health Day annually.
“Psychologists use their skills and expertise to provide psychotherapy and behavioral modifications to individuals who seek help.”