My colleague posted about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) last month, this got me thinking. How do people in the north-eastern Nigeria handle this disorder? Do they get any therapy or counselling from the government? Do they really suffer from PTSD? How is their mental wellbeing? And why is everyone pretending this is not a big issue? I’ll try and answer these questions and tell you a bit about the long-time consequences of ignoring this issue.
There is little research on this issue in the Northern part of Nigeria and the whole country in general. Nigeria has a long history of unfortunate communal and ethnos religious conflicts since its return to civilian rule in 1999, with North Eastern and North Central regions being areas worse hit. For example, since the emergent of Boko Haram terrorism in 2009, the North-Eastern region like Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states has continued to witness incessant violent and hostility confrontations by the terrorists, causing large scale of death and displacement of people.
Since then, thousands of families have been killed by this armed group, many families have witnessed the deaths of their loved ones, their children have been kidnapped, tortured and raped. When the Chibok girls were kidnapped, the families of the girls were disseminated mentally and physically. This kidnapping resulted too many divorces, suicides, heart attacks, and mental illness. At that time, there was a global ‘’bring back our girls’ campaign’’ that runs for over two years, as time has it everything passed. Few years later, there was a news about the recovery of some of the girls and the rest are yet to be recovered.
The campaign that runs for over a year was a good move to pressure the government to do something about it. But running a campaign without tackling other issues and considering all aspect of that unfortunate event was a mistake. The mistake is, we know our government well – it is slow at responding and at tackling any kind of issues related to its people. Don’t get it wrong, the campaign was a good move but considering the mental state of the kidnapped girl’s family should also be a priority. There were no consultation and therapy service for the families that lost their girls at that time, at least not which that was broadcasted in the news or written in any papers or articles. If I lost someone, the first thing I will want is for someone to consult me and really show an actual sympathy toward my lost, not for a political gain. The family were given financial support by the government (according to news media), but no health support was given to them.
Furthermore, the crises also led to the displacement of thousands of people, internally displaced camps were made by ‘’UNICEF’’, World Health Organisation, United Kingdom aid, and other international health organisations, in neighbouring states. However, the term ‘’Internally Displace Person’ (IDPs) has been used to describe ‘people who have been forced or obliged to leave or flee their homes because of conflicts, violation of human rights, situations of generalised violence, human rights, and who have not crossed an internally recognised state border.
By the end of 2016, the number of IDPs in North-East and North-Central Nigeria is estimated at over 2 million people, with approximately 1.7 persons has being displaced because of Boko Haram in the North-Eastern states, making Nigeria the six largest IDPs population in the World. This means over 2 million people have no place to call home with limited survival materials like clean water, food, clothing, adequate healthcare among others.
Several studies have described the people living in IDP camps to be the most poly-traumatized population because of their experience with both direct impact which is due to violence and injury and the indirect impact during mass movement due to physical exhaustion, and hunger.
As mentioned earlier, people that experienced these crises are prone to several mental health challenges especially in the absent of any health support like counselling and therapy. PTSD in Nigeria is more common among those that experience armed conflict related to stressful event. The disorder is characterised by symptoms of avoidance, re-experiencing and increased arousal following exposure to a stressful event that threatens life or physical integrity of self or others. The kidnapping of innocent children can make up all the symptoms of PTSD because they will always be on our mind and the incidence will keep playing in our head in a loop, making anyone to lose their mind if no help is provided.
There many consequences of having an untreated PTSD. Some of which are: suffering from other related conditions like insomnia, depression, anxiety, mental instability etc. Making irrational dissuasion, like abuse and violence toward others; it can lead to suicide, someone that has lost his/her enter family can state to think about ending their life by thinking there is nothing to live for; some people can start a life of crime like becoming rubbers, kidnappers, rapist among others, there will start to think since they have lost everything they may as well do what they want. They can also start to develop the mentality that, since their loved ones has been kidnapped or raped they may as well do the same thing to others, since the government is not doing anything to address these issues. Some of these people can start to have a bad idea about joining the insurgents or becoming independent insurgents themselves and start to terrorise innocent people.
PTSD has several consequences, the sooner we understand it and do something about it the better. Now, Nigeria is facing so many health challenges and the one people are ignoring like mental health are the ones with devastating consequence. We shouldn’t wait for the government to do everything for us – is time for us to start helping each other, the more progress we made ourselves, the better and safer we make our communities, if not for us we should do it for our children. One of the main issues we’re facing is we only think for ourselves not of our kids and future generation, that’s why the rest of the world is ahead of us in all aspect of life. Everything they do is for their future generation not for themselves. Right now, you can’t travel at night or during the day without the fair of getting kidnapped in most Nigerian regions. Personally, the kidnapping happening here in Nigeria has something to do with mental health problems and the poor economic state we’re in.
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