Mental health 101

According to the WHO, mental health is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

From this definition, it can be inferred that mental health is not just about the absence of a mental disorder.

Mental health has been neglected in Nigeria even though about 20%-30% of Nigerians are estimated to suffer from a mental disorder. A report also showed that that one in five Nigerian adults are affected by chronic depression.

Classes of mental health disorders

There are different categories of mental health disorders but here are some:

  • Mood disorders– they are mainly depression and bipolar disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders- These occur when worry or fear does not go away and sometimes gets worse over time. Examples are panic attacks, phobia.
  • Personality disorders- they are long-term patterns of behaviors that are different from the norm. Examples are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder
  • Psychotic disorders- They affect the mind and make it difficult for a person to think logically, make sound decisions, respond emotionally, connect effectively, understand reality, and behave properly. Examples are schizophrenia, delusion.
  • Eating disorders- linked to problems with eating behaviors and the thoughts and emotions attached to it. An example is anorexia.
  • Trauma-related disorders- They involve exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. They include post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder.
  • Substance abuse disorders- occur when a person cannot control the use of substances.

Some symptoms of mental disorder

  • Feeling down for a while
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, or activities (apathy)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Often feeling angry, hostile, or violent
  • Feelings of helpleness
  • Feeling paranoid or hearing voices
  • Often thinking about death or suicide.
A black man looking sad
(Source: The conversation)

Factors that affect our mental health

At any level of life, from infancy and adolescence through adulthood, mental wellbeing is important. There are three major factors that contribute to it

  • Environmental factors

This is one of the major causes of illness globally, including mental disorders. They could be physical environmental factors like poor nutrition, substance abuse, pollution, harmful work environment, sleep deprivation, and so on. They affect a person’s biology and puts them at risk of a mental disorder.

There are also social environmental factors like stigma, abuse (emotional, sexual, and physical), poverty, toxic relationships, work, and so on. They affect a person’s ability to cope with the normal stresses of life.

  • Family history of mental disorder

Studies reveal that people are more likely to have a mental disorder if someone in their family has it or has had it. This could be because of genetics or upbringing. Psychiatric disorders like autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia are linked to genetics and so they run in the family.

Also, in families where members use substances like alcohol and cigarette, others are likely to pick it up. In addition to this, people experience stress and trauma from family members’ abuse of substances in various forms.

Treatment options for mental disorders

Mental disorder treatment majorly involves:

  • Psychotherapy: talking to a psychiatrist or other mental health professionals
  • Medication: medication helps to restore chemical balance to the brain. They are appropriately prescribed by a mental health professional.
  •  Community support programs: suitable for people with recurrent symptoms so that they have support to carry out all life’s activities like work, and having a family.  

How to take care of your mental health

It is really important to be deliberate about your mental health. The same way you use a mosquito net to avoid malaria or use a nose mask to avoid COVID 19. There are steps you can take to maintain your mental health. Some of them are:

Take care of yourself on diary book and stethoscope with pocket watch on table.
(Source: CEUfast)
  • Eat well: proper nutrition is important for a healthy body and life.
  • Stay away from triggers and sources of trauma
  • Take a break: self-care is very important, don’t let stress overwhelm you.
  • Ask for help: acknowledging your weakness is a sign of strength. See a therapist, talk to your close friends, just reach out for help.
  • Stay away from substances: at the very least, drink responsibly.
  • Sleep: it is not just enough to take a break and do things you enjoy, get some good sleep.

Wuraola is a trained health manager with a knack for reading every and anything. She is interested in sharing educational and helpful information from her reading and research. She absolutely loves food and hopes to travel the world to taste every delicacy out there. For more details, send an email to