This is officially first post of the year and the first interview. There has been a lot of buzz recently on mental illness, a lot awareness flying around. last year, a lot of people came out to talk about their battles with the mental illness, but, even with the amount of talk going about mental illness a lot of people are still ignorant about it.

My guest today, who has chosen to remain anonymous is a mental awareness advocate, an entrepreneur among other things. And today we be discussing mental heath issues in ten Q&A. You will find them quite enlightening.

Let’s call my guest Ms.X

1.What is Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupts a person’s thinking, feelings, moods, it also affects the ability to relate with others and some daily functions. Just as diabetics is disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often results in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

2.What are the various forms of Mental Illness or is just depression because a lot of people only seem to talk about that?

We have; anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, dementia, eating disorders.

Depression which is mostly talked about falls under the category of mood disorders Bipolar disorder also falls into the category of mood disorders.

3.Mental health issues is getting a lot buzz lately, especially on social media, do you think people are beginning to grasp the gravity of what mental illness really means?

Personally, I don’t think people on social media are getting the grasp of what mental disorder means. When you come online, especially on twitter, in a day at least one in every ten persons tweets about how depressed they are. But, I have come to find out that they tend to equate depression with basic human sadness and not as the disease that it actually is.

Social Media is also one of the big contributors to deteriorating mental health, we have internet trolls, we have people comparing themselves to other people on social media and despite the fact that everybody is talking about it, it is still being taken with levity.

4.As a mental illness survivor and advocate what are the stereotypes that you have had to deal with?

Generally, people have an idea of who they want you to be or let me say, the kind of Nigerian they want you to be, so once you don’t fall into that category then you are not normal.

One of the stereotypes I have faced is the general one that every person with mental disorder faces , that’s the “you can’t have mental illness, it’s a white man’s problem” you can’t open up and talk to someone because they don’t even believe that your illness is real.

I also suffer from an anxiety disorder and people keep telling me to calm down because they think it’s something I can control, which it isn’t and another one is that people generally think they have an idea of what you are going through when they don’t so they tend to make things worse by saying what they think they know.

5.In what ways have you tried to address these stereotypes?

I try to educate as many people as I can, without being too intense, because when you try to go hard on people, they begin to think you are literally mad and you need to be committed to an institution. So, I try as calmly as possible to explain what it means to have mental disorders, any kind of mental disorder and also to teach people that making insensitive statements or jokes are not appropriate.

6.One of the stereotypes you talked about is the believe that Africans cannot have mental disorders, as it is popularly called “White man’s disease” Most Africans believe that with proper home training, you can be immune to Mental Illness, is this true?

This misconception has been passed down from generation that it has been ingrained into the minds of a lot of Africans that it is difficult for them to unlearn this.

Africans are humans and they can fall ill, it’s just like Malaria, we don’t hear people say white men are immune to Malaria because it is predominant in Africa.

Africans are not immune to mental illnesses, because we are human and no human is immune to any disease.

7.Stats show that depression is high among teenagers and young adults, what do you think could be the cause of this?

Academic stress, meeting up to your parents expectation, peer pressure, societal anxiety, bullying, trauma resulting from abuse, death or divorce, so many things have contributed to depression in teenagers and young adults, there’s also financial problems, mental disorder could even hereditary.

8.Is there a cure for mental illness is just something that needs to be properly managed?

It’s a journey, a process, I can’t say there is an actual cure, but one has to move from diagnosis, seeing a therapist, it may even involve taking medically prescribed drugs. Supportive friends and family, taking care of one’s mental health. There is no particular drug or shots that automatically corrects mental disorder, but it can be properly managed.

9.Can you give us some tips on how people living with mental illness can properly manage and improve their health?

The best way to handle mental disorders is to take care of yourself, sometimes it is okay to be selfish, basically take care of yourself, be kind to yourself,express your self surround yourself with positive energy, join a support group, exercise regularly, set realistic goals for yourself, try something different, generally just take of yourself and avoid recreational drugs.

10.Finally, like we mentioned earlier we noticed that a lot of people make insensitive jokes and comment, mostly out of ignorance what advice would you give them on how to deal with people suffering from mental disorders?

My advice to people is that they should educate themselves, they should learn more, do research, this will help them know more about the illness, it will help them to help their loved ones. Also, they should stay away from insensitive jokes, try to be a listening ear and most importantly, they should show love and commitment towards people with mental disorders.

Thank you Ms.X for taking time out to do this interview and to broaden our knowledge on mental illnesses. I certainly hope you all enjoyed this and learned a lot.

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