The 2019 World Mental Health Day was celebrated on Thursday, 10th October, 2019. The theme for this year’s celebration was “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention”. To mark this day, a group of psychiatric doctors came from Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, to talk to us in the church. They took a few minutes to enlighten the gathering on causes and warning signs for suicide. They also shared pamphlets on this fast arising problem. This post today is to mention some of the concerns raised by these doctors and the warning signs of suicide discussed in the pamphlet.
While growing up, I was taught that if I kill myself I will get the hottest part of Hellfire (I can’t remember who taught me that anyway). In fact, it never seemed that anybody will want to commit suicide. We only see that on television and we see people that do that as stupid (after all they will end up in Hellfire). I grew up with this notion, and I know a lot of people do so too. As hard as life was, a lot of us wanted to keep it.
But we are seeing something different right now. I don’t really know why but a lot of people are beginning to see the other side as better than over here. Some people attribute it to the hardship in this life, others see it as people being pushed into it by some unforeseen circumstances, and then we have those that believe it has something to do with the supernatural forces (especially the evil forces). I have even read of someone who believes that every suicide victim is possessed by the evil spirit. Well I don’t know, but I know that life can be unbearable sometimes.
Well, I thank God that our psychiatrists and psychologists are beginning to create awareness about suicide and mental health. They have been so silent about these before that I began to get worried. With their campaign against suicide and for mental health, I believe that we can now look up to a brighter tomorrow for our children.
Like I stated earlier, this post is to address the issues of mental health and suicide raised by the doctors from Psychia Hospital, Enugu (as it is fondly called). I am not a health practitioner, so I am not in a position to add or remove from what they told us orally and in their pamphlets. I will write out the points raised in the pamphlets and, if possible, chip in something they told us orally (the ones I can remember, lol) or the ones I gathered from life experiences.
A. Facts about Mental Health
- 1. Good mental health is more than the absence of mental illness, it has to do with everything we do.
- 2. To achieve good mental health, we must strive to take decisions and actions that will keep our mind at rest (I realised this part long ago when I noticed that too much worries and toxicity can affect my mental wellbeing).
- 3. Mentally healthy person acts in such a way that promotes happier and more fulfilled life that can create a healthier society (this point makes me wonder how many people in Nigeria are mentally healthy, if you get what I mean).
- 4. Good mental health is the foundation for an individual’s and community’s effective functioning and well-being (you see what I mean by what I noted in A.3? If many Nigerians are mentally healthy we won’t be experiencing some of the problems we have in our society today. My thoughts, though).
- 5. The changing pattern of modern urban life affects mental health of the population through work pressure, social demand, the fear of failure, unemployment and loneliness. We need to be proactive.
B. Facts about Mental Illness
- 1. Mental illness is becoming a greater problem in healthcare.
- 2. We are all vulnerable to mental illness and during our life time nearly half of us will suffer from a significant mental illness and this may rise the longer we live.
- 3. Even the very young children may show early warning signs of mental illness.
- 4. More people without mental illness are more violent than the mentally ill (this really got me).
- 5. People with mental illness get better and may recover completely.
- 6. Most people who seek for professional treatment early are more likely to get completely better.
- 7. One can reach his or her potentials while having mental illness (I’ve seen some of them).
- 8. Mental illness can be prevented by addressing the known risk factors.
- 9. Mental health and mental illness are everybody’s business; by our actions or interactions, we make the world a better or worse place for others as well as ourselves.
- 10. Mental illness occurs by an intricate interaction between genetics and favourable or unfavourable environmental factors (so, someone that has some form of mental illness in his gene can still be fine in a favourable environment).
C. What We should Do to Prevent Having Mental Illness
- 1. When our challenges seem to be overwhelming that we feel we can’t get out of it, see a trained mental health professional.
- 2. When you are abused sexually, raped, bullied, or blackmailed, report to your teachers, good friends or see relevant agencies or a mental health professional.
- 3. When you are in an abusive relationship or marriage such that you regret ever marrying in the first place, see a mental health professional.
- 4. If you lose one or more loved one that you cannot get out of the grief after about six months, see a mental health professional.
D. Facts about Suicide
- 1. Suicide should not be seen as a crime or weakness in character. It is due to mental health challenge.
- 2. Suicide does not just happen, it started as a process.
- 3. Suicide is preventable.
- 4. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternative solution to their problems.
- 5. People with history of attempted suicide are more likely to complete the suicide in future (this one scares me).
E. Warning Signs/Red Flashes for Suicide
This part is divided into three – the person’s talk, behaviour and mood. According to them, once you notice any of the following signs in your children, parents, friends, co-workers, students or anybody you have close contact with, YOU SHOULD NOT IGNORE IT.
I. Talk: If the person talks about:
1. Killing themselves
2. Feeling hopeless
3. Having no reason to live
4. Being a burden to others
5. Feeling entrapped
6. Unbearable pain
II. Behaviour: These behaviours are red flashes for suicide:
1. Increase use of alcohol, cigarette or other drugs.
2. Looking for a way to die such as searching online for methods or asking such questions.
3. Withdrawing from usual activities.
4. Acting anxious, agitated or behaving recklessly.
5. Isolating self from friends.
6. Sleeping too much or too little.
7. Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
8. Giving away prized possessions.
9. Displaying aggression.
10. Showing unexpected rage or talking about seeking revenge.
III. Mood: Don’t ignore these moods, especially if it started suddenly
1. Feeling depressed
2. Feeling anxious
3. Loss of interest
4. Feeling irritable
5. Feeling humiliated/ashamed
6. Displaying extreme mood swings
8. Relief/sudden acceptance
I know this is quite scary, but it is informative. Let’s take care of our mental health, and look out for one another. Life is hard already; adding mental illness to it will only compound the hardship.
Culled from The Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu’s campaign pamphlet for the 2019 World Mental Health Day Celebration.