Public health physician and Medical Director of Quantum Leap Consulting, Dr. Ayodele Micheal Adewale, says poorly managed environmental challenges are pushing more Nigerians into depression.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V — taxonomic and diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association — depression is mainly characterised by the presence of five or more symptoms for a two-week period, which represents a change from previous functioning, with the presence of either a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.
Other symptoms of depression include significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain, sleeplessness or excessive sleepiness, psychomotor agitation or retardation, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, reduced ability to concentrate, and reoccurring thoughts of death or suicide.
Depression is an important risk factor for suicide, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year, the manual stated.
Speaking in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, Dr. Adewale, who has a keen interest in interventional talking therapy, said recent studies have revealed that many people facing difficult life challenges are becoming more susceptible to mental health illness such as depression and anxiety because they lack access to trained professionals who could properly counsel them during their difficult moments.
Many Nigerians, he said, are having difficulties with their academics, finance, as well as their marital and other relationships, yet do not seek nor get professional help to deal with their emotional and psychological challenges.
“A huge part of the risk factor for depression are environmental factors such as past psychological traumatic experiences either as a child or an adult but poorly managed.
“Many people with these traumatic psychological experiences need experts who can counsel them. Sometimes, just talking with them can significantly help prevent serious mental health problems.
“Many people on the street have good cognition level, yet have experienced massive childhood emotional trauma or adulthood trauma. Many of them are disasters waiting to happen because of the lack of therapeutic intervention.
“Looking at them, they have no obvious mental health disorders, but they are unwell. Their workplace productivity and performance will be going down but superficially, they are looking good.
“The fact is that many of them are ‘boiling’ with anger internally but they don’t have anyone to talk to despite the so-called “trusted” family members and friends around them.
“We have a high level of pretence in typical African society. This is part of the reason we are having an increase in the occurrence of sudden suicide, divorce, and other antisocial problems,” he said.
Adewale said his experience with patients has made him realise that more physicians should embrace interventional talking therapy, noting that many patients would derive great benefits from it.
“The enormous medical knowledge gotten from our medical training can be used by physicians to help people deal with their life challenges
“It helps people to express themselves and share their pains or difficulty and by so doing prevent mental health issues.
“Talking Therapy is a new approach to medicine. It is a little alien to Africa but it is a form of treatment for people going through life challenges that could lead to depression or other mental health illness,” he said.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 264 million people worldwide. It is characterised by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities.
It can also disturb sleep, appetite, concentration and is a leading cause of disability around the world contributing greatly to the global burden of disease. The effects of depression can be long-lasting or recurrent and can dramatically affect a person’s ability to function and live a rewarding life, WHO said.
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