There is nothing as mentally rewarding as the capacity for one to freely express and determine the course of one’s life -which is the fundamental doctrine of democracy.
This freedom, however, is not without its own challenges and responsibility as absolute freedom could breed anarchy. The independence anniversary of our nation is an eloquent reminder of the great opportunity we had over the past five decades as a country to self-govern ahead of some African countries who were under colonial rule this period.
Colonisation definitely has its very ugly sides but there are certain opportunities we missed as a people along the way. The colonisation process gave us an opportunity to interrogate our culture and to expunge certain unwholesome practices and embrace the good ones.
We had a leadership template that was primitive and hegemonic, which colonial masters juxtaposed from the traditional institutions gradually into the educated elite class of their own creation.
This ruling class has since held Nigeria to ransom almost like a creation of a local group of colonial masters. At independence, we had a great team who were divided along tribal lines. This factor injured the project of developing a sane country from the constituent nations. This for me messed up the gain of our hard-earned independence.
Bad leadership has also affected the mental health of many Nigerians. The mental well being of the citizenry is definitely one of the major indices of good leadership. The social welfare institutions that could have guaranteed this have been poorly managed over the years because leadership had been overtaken by greed.
Mental health advocacy will be useless and ineffective only when we engage the incidence of mental disorders from a purely clinical paradigm and not how they occurred.
There are towering socio-economic and socio-political issues that have challenged and overstretched the mental resources predisposing them to mental illness.
There is a need for the leadership to understand and assimilate the basic theory of cause and effect especially with respect to mental health. Homelessness, unemployment, poor pension scheme, erratic electricity supply, roads littered with dangerous potholes, unaffordable education have ways of contributing to the incidence of mental illness.
The Boko Haram debacle is a product of bad and insensitive leadership over the years just as the Niger Delta militancy was. There would have been no need for the amnesty programme if enough resources had been adequately and timely committed to developing the nation’s social welfare institutions.
Nigeria is still groping at 55 despite oil wealth that is dwindling at a very fast rate. As a nation, we come across as prodigal as we try to find our place. The citizenry is hopeless and just floundering which can explain the increasing rate of suicide in our country where suicide reportage is low.
To salvage the damage, government must develop a social welfare institution by making the rich pay for the poor to protect Nigerian’s mental health otherwise the repercussions could be grave for our nation.
However, alternative templates of leadership in the society can fill in the gap to protect the mental health of the people. Parents can explain what independence means to their children and allow them bask in the experience of being brought up with great values and respect for themselves and others.
We can banish all forms of abuse and validate them as we nurture them in love. Good parenting could actually act as a protection against developing certain childhood psychiatric disorders. The school teachers as the supervisor of the secondary socialisation for our children can also serve as the facility to enhance their mental health by inculcating sound values and discouraging bad ones thereby reducing the incidence of mental disorders due to substance abuse.
The university can also serve as a place to engage faulty social paradigms that students bring from home which could damage their mental health and frustrate their academic pursuits.
Above all, the religious systems have a great potential as strong change agents to challenge leadership and provide succour for the masses. To celebrate independence, families can choose to undertake the treatment of the vagrant mentally ill or raise a foundation for their care. Corporate organisations can assist the society, by coming up with initiatives that would help mentally ill patients get some form of employment while being rehabilitated.
This for me is one of the most fulfilling ways to celebrate our independence anniversary as we compliment the effort of the government.
By Adeoye Oyewole
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