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MENTAL HEALTH - THE MYTHS AND FACTS

WhatsApp Image 2020 07 07 at 42117 PM

DR. ADEDOYIN A. A

It was a cold Tuesday morning. I had just been posted to a psychiatric hospital for my National Youth Service (NYSC). With different scary thoughts running through my mind, all of my mother's worries only made them worse. Scenes of someone biting me were on constant replay in my head. Many people, not just me, feel this way and have the same worries. How do you react when someone that looks "unstable" is walking towards you? This, and other thoughts, further compounded my fears.

All the same, I arrived at the hospital and to my surprise, the environment was very calm and quiet, and I started wondering if I was at the right place (at least, the mental picture of what I thought a psychiatric hospital would look like). Scenes of people bound in a corner were non-existent, neither was anyone randomly dancing or shouting on one side, as portrayed in Nigerian movies. My mind-set started to shift, and it occurred to me, that I may have been overthinking it. Maybe serving here would not be a bad idea.

I finally resumed work fully, and realized that mental illness was not the typical image we all had in our heads and had been made to believe overtime. It encompassed much more than that. Many people had different forms of the illness ranging from anxiety disorders and depression, to schizophrenia and others. One particularly caught my interest, and that was the alarming number of young people that had developed the mental illness from substance abuse. The usual culprit was Cannabis, although I found that most times, it was not the cannabis alone, but anabuse of cannabis in association with other substances like tramadol, rohypnol, codeine and crack, to name a few. Most of these people would usually end up with some changes in their personalities which included some beating their parents and others just aimlessly wandering around. It was however exciting to me, to find out that these people, as soon as they commenced treatment, began to get better. And this is true for the other forms of mental illness.

So, here is to correct some stereotypes:

Firstly, mental illness is not a death sentence. I say this because I have seen people get well, following treatment. People diagnosed with a form of mental illness can live good lives, get good jobs and have good family lives, as long as they're consistent and compliant with their treatment plans.

Secondly, mental illness is a chronic illness. How do I mean? Just like diabetes and hypertension, mental illness has no definitive cure yet, but can be managed. This is to say that as long as the person uses their medications religiously and comes to the clinic regularly for follow-up, they will be fine. Some people however have the belief that once the client has used medications for a while and seem better in the present, they can stop the medication. This is a wrong and dangerous belief and can, as a matter of fact, lead to a relapse.

Thirdly, anyone can break down! People from different walks of life come to the hospital every day for one issue or the other. Some people break down over the slightest issues while for some; it takes a 'mountain-sized' issue to break them down. Hence, it is everyone's personal responsibility to protect their mental health. I have found, that sharing your problems with people that can proffer solutions, can go a long way.

So, I have written from my experience, serving in a mental health facility and I must say, it was a very interesting and enlightening journey.Additionally, I have been successfully converted and now, I can only see myself being a Psychiatrist because Psychiatry rocks!

I will close with these words that have become my watchword: "do your best to spread light in an already dark world."

DR. ADEDOYIN A. A

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