As mental health becomes a larger topic of conversation in Canada, some communities are not as open to embracing those struggling with poor mental health.
Mental health issues in the Nigerian community have become a sensitive, even taboo topic. However, some Nigerians who moved away from the country are becoming more aware and finding more ways to cope with their mental health struggles.
“Back home, we don’t talk about that,” said Olaniyi Muti, a Nigerian who moved to Calgary. “Are you sad? Get a job.”
According to a 2022 World Health Organization report, 20 per cent of Nigerians — about 40 million people — are struggling with prevalent mental health issues.
“Nigeria is a toxic society that isn’t ready for a change,” said Adebayo Abdulmajeed, who moved to Calgary in 2021. “After staying in Calgary for over two years, I feel heard. When I feel like my mental health is going down, I just take a deep breath, drink water, go for a walk, take a nap, or talk to a therapist.”
In Nigeria, people often suffer silently for years with their mental health and things often have to become desperate for them to act.
“Most Nigerians don’t know there is a thing called ‘mental health issues,'” said Susan Ayomide, a new member of the Nigerian Association. “They discard their feelings and never actually stop to take a break. We need people to know it is a normal thing; we are all human. We all need a break.”
The Nigerian Association advises Nigerians not to be ashamed but rather focus on finding help and support from the available resources. Self-care, personal work leaves, vacations, and treating yourself can all contribute to positive mental health.
“I urge people to incubate this mentality and drop the old one because we are growing,” said Ayomide. “It is the 2020s, not the 1700s.”