Mama Biyi lived in the UK with her husband for many years. Whilst in the UK, she worked whilst he studied. They scrimped and saved to build a house in Ibadan to live in when they move back home. Every single pound she made was spent on her husband’s education, the upkeep of the family and the house. When they did move back to Nigeria; her husband married another wife and moved into the house in Ibadan with the wife. Mama Biyi was left in Lagos to live in a low- cost flat she had bought. My opinionated mum said she died of heartbreak; leaving her six children motherless. I think she died of depression.
Frankie Sandford is beautiful, talented, and wholesome with an enviable lifestyle. She is the girl friend of Wayne Bridge, a hot premier league footballer. She is part of the girl group; The Saturdays, a popular girl band in the UK. However, beneath the beautiful exterior of glossy hair, the to die for wardrobe, the dream job and the rich footballer boyfriend, Frankie has been suffering from depression for over eight years. She was hospitalised late last year and the gossip mills went into an overdrive.
“Depression is a condition of general emotional dejection and withdrawal; sadness greater and more prolonged than that warranted by any objective reason”. There are many people, all different ages, who suffer from depression; some worse than others. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), depression occurs in 10% of the population at any one time. Or look at it this way: the average twitter handle has 100 followers, so, at least 10 of your followers could be suffering from depression. A survey conducted in the UK claimed depression affects one in six of us, I hear you, “I reject that in Jesus name”; #cosign. However, rejecting it will not help, talking about it the way we should, is the way forward. Growing up in Nigeria, depression was just a slang we used for when you are down especially when you are broke. Depression was not an illness. People who suffered from mental health illness were “barking mad”, there was no grey area. There is still a stigma and discrimination attached to mental health illness. This is not peculiar to Nigeria but countries as developed as the UK are battling with this too.
I am more likely to discuss my sex life or PMS with my friends than mention that I’m feeling down. For argument’s sake, let’s say I do. Let me guess the answer, “you are too idle, you need to get busy”. Or “what have you got to be depressed about?”. In the Nigerian context, you would be deemed as ungrateful to your Maker, if you are overly down or sad especially if your life seems ‘perfect’. Most especially if there is no apparent reason to feel depressed. Depression can be compounded by guilt and low self-esteem; individuals might believe they have no right to feel that way. They tend to put on a brave face for the world to see. Depression is like the British weather; sunshine and showers. One can be bubbly and alive one minute; upset and teary the next. A doctor said it is like having asthma: it’s something you have; it’s not going to go away.
We all experience low mood from time to time; money worries, family issues, job stress, relationship woes etc. However, when this low mood continues for over two weeks, or you lose interest in the activities you normally enjoy, then something is not right. Medical science is yet to ascertain the main cause of it. Some claimed there may be a chemical imbalance in the brain. Others said it may have been triggered by a life event that is hard to get over. However, it seems depression does not need a reason to “occupy” someone’s life. I feel low sometimes but I guess before it turns into depression, my chatterbox nature plus my credit cards put me on the mend.
On a serious note, please talk about it if that emptiness and inertia refuses to go. A trusted friend is a good way to start. It might be hard especially if you are used to keeping things to yourself. On the other hand, if someone opens up to you, please don’t brush them off because that would make them uncomfortable. Listen actively, tell them you are there for them and mean it. Also, exercise has been said to have a positive impact on mood. You don’t have to join a gym; basic ones like walking, running and cycling can do the job. Healthy eating improves mental health. Looking after you when in that abyss of darkness can be hard but it is important to make an effort.
I’m hitting the shops; I think writing about this is affecting my mood. It is called retail therapy and I shall be blogging about it.
For more help and advice, these websites are great: