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Depression in Nigeria: it is not by choice.

When talking to a typical Nigerian about being depressed, they brush it off as an “Oyinbo” (White people) thing. It is a myth, and there is no way you are actually depressed because, according to them, it is a made-up word by westerners. This leaves you feeling alone and even more depressed because you have no one who can relate to what you are feeling, and when you express these feelings, they are dismissed.

Depression is very real, and it could happen to the best of us. Most times, when that wave of depression hits you because things in your life are not working out the way you would like them to, you are falling behind in your studies. Or your work is super stressful, you have no one to confide in, they will tell you the same thing, “Everything will be fine”, and they will say it dismissively, so you are left to deal with the harsh reality that no one really cares. They probably think you are crazy or trying to act like an “Oyinbo” to admit being depressed.

They could also make you feel like you woke up and decided to be depressed, blaming it on your period(Menstrual circle) or asking you to snap out of it like there’s a switch you could flip on and off. In 2018 I was down in the sunken place because it was my final year in the university and everything around me seemed to be falling apart. I was at my wit’s end and confided in a friend about being depressed. She didn’t waste time telling me to snap out of it; it felt like someone shot me in the chest. It was hurtful, and I couldn’t believe how apathetic she was to my feelings. I had no one else to talk to, so I pretended to be okay even though I wasn’t until I found ways to deal with how I was feeling. I started to journal my thoughts and work through them. I also listened to uplifting songs that made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It was the cheapest form of therapy I could find, and it worked like a charm.

Mental health is a subject that is overlooked in this country because people don’t realize how everyday situations could impact their mental health negatively. We look at people who go in to see psychiatric doctors as crazy, and because we don’t want to be seen as crazy, we ignore our mental health and unconsciously find unhealthy ways to release negative feelings.

There is no right way to be depressed, you could confide in someone about feeling down, and they will proceed to tell you you’re too sensitive and it’s not that serious. They tell you it will go away, so you are left feeling confused when it doesn’t.

It is very easy for someone who hasn’t experienced depression or feelings of suicide to assume that people who have it have been weak. I have seen many people make fun of people who are depressed and those who committed suicide due to their depression. They blame them for feeling that way, but that is wrong. They are not weak. They are alone and tired of explaining their feelings to people who don’t understand. It is important to let people experiencing depression know they are not alone. Try being empathetic instead of being judgemental.

Also, if you are struggling with depression, it is essential to understand that it could happen to anyone. You are not weak stay away from people who would try to convince you that it is a sign of weakness. If you can pinpoint the cause of your depression to something in your life, walk away from it. Don’t be ashamed to talk to a mental health professional, and don’t let anyone invalidate your feelings.

Luckily, foundations and organizations in Nigeria help people dealing with depression and other mental health challenges. A simple google search could help you find the ones closest to you. Let’s practice empathy and stop brushing off people’s mental health struggles as an “Oyinbo “ thing.