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Monday, December 5, 2022

Will your anchor hold?

Bayo Fasuwon

Let us begin this week’s column with a song authored by Priscilla Owens. Join me to sing:

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,

when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?

When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,

will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

This song asks a question that we need to ask ourselves, friends, neighbors, government, leaders and followers at this time. All over the world, there is gloom dictating as it were an impending doom. In Nigeria,the gloom has been expressed on national dailies, social media and even discussions on the streets. Various skits, made with a view of inducing laughter have in fact shown the levels of hardship and also insane responses to the societal hardship. Insane responses have been laughed at, but we have closed our eyes to the fact that these signal the fact that many Nigerians, pushed to the wall by the frustrations of life have become insane and suffer from myriads of mental disorders. From the VIO officers that jump in front of vehicles to check road worthiness, the customers who strip themselves naked to protest against fraudulent activities in the Banks; teachers seeking sexual gratification for grades; the Policeperson who demands a bribe and Politicians who steal public funds to the tune that his fourth generation cannot expend; the mental depravity of many Nigerians are revealed. While we view the husband who in a fit of rage murders his wife; and a woman in a jealous rage drives herself to death, as abnormal behaviours, we fail to understand that they suffer from mental disorders. Governors who watch as the lives of her people are wasted, and plays the deaf against the urgent demands of those who vote such into power suffer from mental disorders.

In this part of the world, we view those who go about naked, or ill clad, eating from dustbins and exhibiting erratic behavior in their dirty apparel as insane, but little do we realise that the man in beautiful white Babaringa, well cut nails, and polished Queen’s English, seated quietly in a corner deep in thought about the storms of life is  actually a disaster about to happen as he suffers from mental disorders. When the storms of life, the wings of strife and the strong tides rise against our souls, it takes the mental alert and emotional intelligent to respond appropriately. However, it is quite unfortunate that in Nigeria, we lack the understanding for the need of therapy, counselling and education to combat forces that betides our souls. The Nigeria government at all levels have this strange belief that her nationals can take anything. To them, Nigerians are so resilient, as was revealed in the ongoing Women U17 tournament of Nigeria versus USA, and can therefore adapt to any situation; swim against the tide and survive any situation. This warped thinking of the ruling elite has induced them into taking fiscal decisions that have impoverished the nation. In their high towers, they have not seen many who have yielded to the lure of drugs in order to escape the realities of their depravity; they have not seen transferred aggression that has led to the loss of lives and properties, and neither have they reasoned that corruption in every sphere of the society have become a coping strategy. For many who can afford it, travelling abroad has become their ‘escape from Sobibor’, while the remaining ones are chanting ‘we die here’.

“Mental disorder is associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour.  It is broader term covering mental disorders, psychosocial disabilities and (other) mental states associated with significant distress, impairment in functioning, or risk of self-harm”. It is also said that one in every eight people live with a mental disorder, that is close to 1 billion people around the world live with a mental disorder, with anxiety and depressive disorders.

Given the increasing levels of insecurity (of lives, properties, means of livelihood and health), anxiety disorders have become common in Nigeria. Anxiety disorder is expressed excessive worry, panic attacks, and excessive fear. These in time have led to depression in which many have exhibited sustained feelings of sadness, irritability and emptiness. It is significant to note that given the societal pressures and galloping inflation, ‘poor concentration, feelings of excessive guilt or low self-worth, hopelessness about the future, thoughts about dying or suicide, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite or weight, and feeling especially tired or low in energy’ describes the average Nigerian on the street.

That explains the rise in suicidal decisions from every walk of life in Nigeria today. Added to depression, one can keenly observe that many Nigerians have significant impairments in perception and changes in behavior. When the perception of what is wrong or right is dimmed, and logical thinking becomes impossible, then Schizophrenia is suspected. The patient expresses hallucinations, disorganized thinking, highly disorganized behavior, persistent delusions and often time exhibit extreme agitation. A leader who cannot exhibit cognitive reasoning also suffers from schizophrenia. 

This mental disorder explains why people drive against traffic, break the laws with impunity and are often delinquents. Like the insane man on the streets, they see things from abnormal lens,misinterpret events by their illusions, and are mostly right in their thinking. Is there anyone exhibiting these symptoms in your neighborhood or family? Seek medical attention for such, fast.

If time and occasion permits, yours truly would delve into other forms of mental disorders prevalent in our society. However, it is important to note that mental disorders are mostly caused by the experiences incurred from daily living. Contrary to some opinions, yours truly is convinced that mental disorders are coping strategies developed by the mind in response to societal stimuli. Unfortunately, for most mental disorders, once they set in, are difficult to eliminate. In most cases, they can only be managed. However, when the igniters of the stimulus are removed, healing can occur over time.

The economic situation in the country have made vacations a taboo for most workers. Many civil servants embark on ‘working leave’, while most academics are not able to go on leave all year round. The relaxation centres in Nigeria have promoted more noise than cooling salves; and government policies, actions and inactions have mostly made many mad people. While it is important to make people understand that the wages of sin is death, and that hell is the destination of sinners, truth be told, many religious organisations that have hammered on these, fifty-two weeks in a year, have produced more depressed and schizophrenic individuals over the years.

The tides against the human mind is strong and tempestuous. Government must realise this and therefore seek to annihilate the causal conditions. We must all observe those close to us and rise to help when these symptoms emerge. Above all, having a personal relationship with God Almighty would be a great anchor in the storms of life. Whatever your anchor is, permit me to ask, ‘will your anchor hold?’

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