7 April was World Health Day. This year, WHO announced its year-long campaign; “Depression: Let’s Talk”. The overall goal of the campaign is that more people with depression, everywhere in the world, both seek and get help.
“Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization, (WHO), more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives” – WHO.
The World Happiness Report 2017 which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels, ranked Nigerians as the 6th happiest people in Africa and 95th in the world. This latest report would suggest that despite the economic hardship households currently face, Nigerians are relatively happy. But this survey may have been put to test by a recent spate of reported depression and suicides in the country.
DEPRESSION AND ECONOMIC CYCLES
During a financial crisis, economic downturns and depressions, it is not uncommon to find people suffering from emotional distress that can lead to clinical depression. Having money allows us to provide for our families, while not having enough money narrows our choices; it dictates where and how we live, what and how much we can afford in terms of the comforts of life.
The persistent economic challenges in Nigeria have affected many households negatively. Thousands of Nigerians have lost their jobs, some have had their incomes slashed, and many can no longer afford the things they were used to having with the staggering increase in the cost of living and a direct impact on living standards. Depending on one’s disposition and responsibilities, we tend to react to situations differently.
Depression comes from a sense of loss, and financial problems typically reflect loss; the loss of a job, loss of investments and so on.
NETWORTH VERSUS SELF-WORTH
Particularly in a materialistic society such as ours, money or the lack of it can determine our “position” in the social order. For many that are used to measuring wealth as a means of self-identity, losing that wealth can be devastating.
MONEY AND PSYCHOLOGY
Research shows the strong links between money and our inner lives. Having or not having money can have profound physical, mental and emotional repercussions. No one is completely immune from money worries. When a financial emergency comes, one is left to deal with an array of material and psychological consequences.
The desperation and feeling of hopelessness where one feels there is no way out of their financial challenges can lead someone to feel a sense of deep despair to the point that suicide feels like the only option. For those that have not experienced this, it can seem easy to typecast sufferers as antisocial, selfish and so on.
Unfortunately, in our society there has been a cultural stigma attached to mental illness and it hasn’t been talked about enough; indeed, it is often brushed aside or swept under the carpet so as not to embarrass the family of the sufferer. As this uncomfortable topic comes into the fore at last, it is important to note that we are all susceptible, and must be aware of the tell-tale signs. Physical signs of depression can include insomnia, irritability, agitation, anger, loss of appetite or increase in food consumption, reduced motivation, and a feeling of isolation.
One wonders what the statistics for mental illness are in Nigeria and how challenging it will be to manage this problem with only about “300 qualified psychiatrists” in the whole country to support thousands of Nigerians that need urgent help. We all know people going through overwhelming financial challenges, or indeed you might be facing financial hardship or crippling debt which can affect you physically, emotionally and psychologically. It is important that there is much greater awareness and education about mental illness so that those that sufferers can seek and get the required help.