Mental health conditions from psychological trauma

WELCOME to this week’s “Mental Health Chat Room”, this is a chat room where we discuss the basics of our mental health in order to understand and have a full grasp of the rudiments of mental health and optimum mental well-being. 

This is an essential component of our mental health advocacy activities aimed at promoting our wholesome wellness, prevent mental illness, improve our awareness of mental disorders, understand that effective, qualitative and modern (technology based) mental health care services are available in Nigeria and Globally. This will enhance our collective quality life, harmonious interpersonal relationships and peaceful coexistence within our communities.

A recap of our last conversation where we discussed “Adolescent Mental Health: Our Youth, Our Future”! We discussed that Adolescence is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, the period from puberty to adulthood, from ages 10 to 19 years, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO.

It is a unique stage of human development and an important time for laying the foundations of good health and behaviour. Globally, many adolescents live in environments in which poverty, conflict, or abuse is common, placing them at risk for developing mental disorders or engaging in co-occurring risky behaviors such as psychoactive substance use and physical violence.

Adolescence is also a time when chronic mental disorders may develop, half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated. This can place adolescents at further risk for unhealthy behaviours, injuries, and diseases and contribute to poor physical and mental health in later years.

Today, in continuation of our discussion on Adolescent Mental Health: Our Youth, Our Future”, I will be discussing a severe mental health condition that usually starts during the adolescent period; “Schizophrenia”.

I will illustrate the first part of the discussion with the story of Adamu (hypothetical), please read on: Adamu is a 22 years old 200-level university undergraduate reading Library Science. His problem started five years ago when he was about to sit for the Senior Secondary School Examination (SSCE), he realised that he was unable to think straight, he just couldn’t concentrate on tasks and the major life-changing examination was only two months away.

He often felt strange but was unable to pin down what the problem was at the time.

Sometimes he felt like the day was not moving or it was moving too fast, and at other times he felt like the activities around him were like a movie set and the people were not real.

He complained to his mother who dismissed it as “stress” of preparation for the examination, she advised him to slow down and take things easy; but when the complaint became persistent, she confided in the father who suggested that they should visit the spiritualist for prayers. Adamu felt better after five prayer sessions, though he was not completely free from the strange experiences, he adjusted and was able to tolerate them. He was able to write the SSCE and the result was quite outstanding, he equally performed excellently well at the Joint Admission and Matriculation Examination/Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (JAMB/UTME) for entrance into the university.

He secured admission to study medicine in the college of medical sciences at his choice University and everyone was happy. Two years into the program (200 level), the Doctor at the university clinic sent an emergency request for Adamu’s parents to come to the school, that Adamu has behavioral challenges!

This time, Adamu was unable to sleep, the strange experiences had worsened to the extent that he was hearing voices of unseen persons and responding to what they were discussing, for over two weeks he had not bath, he remained in his room most times, the room was littered with leftover food and dirty clothes, strange writings and drawings of headless bodies or bodies with one eye on the forehead! He was afraid of leaving his room during the daytime because he believed people knew his thoughts, sometimes he hears his thoughts being narrated by unseen persons.

The doctor interviewed the parents and was able to get additional information on the events of the previous two years, they informed the Doctor that Adamu has not actually returned to who he used to be since that time. “He is the first among four children of his parents, his other siblings are all girls, his father is a businessman and his mother is a school teacher. One of the siblings is a pharmacy student at the university and the other two are in secondary school.

Adamu doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol though he had friends who smoke cannabis. “The parents denied a family history of mental illness but his mother admitted that her younger brother (Adamu’s maternal uncle) couldn’t complete his university education because of the use of cannabis and he is presently reclusive in the village.

His father admitted that his sister (Adamu’s paternal aunt) had serious behavioral challenges after giving birth to her baby and it was ascribed to a spiritual attack.“The parents took Adamu away from the university clinic against medical advice to the village to consult the herbalist.

He spent three months at the herbalist’s home where he was administered herbs and also made sacrifices to deal with the enemies who didn’t want Adamu to become a doctor. Adamu felt better and returned home to spend another three months before returning to the university.

By this time he had lost one semester. The following semester, he registered but his performance at the examination was very poor with a carryover of almost all the courses! At 300 level, Adamu’s condition deteriorated again and the parents went to pick him up from school again, this time he was taken to the spiritualist.

He spent another three months out of school and had to miss the semester examination. The parents attempted to return him to school but the persistence of the abnormal and sometimes embarrassing behavior (which included inappropriate urination and defecation) will not permit.

All this while, the family had kept Adamu’s problem a top family secret until when the father couldn’t hold it any longer, he confided in his friend Mr. Amos who facilitated consultation at the University Teaching Hospital.

Adamu was hospitalized and received effective treatment for a condition the doctors call “Schizophrenia”. He recovered fully and was able to return to school to continue with his studies, unfortunately, he had to change course to Library Science because of the time lost to the illness.

Next week I will continue with the chat on schizophrenia, please stay tuned. We can all suffer from mental health challenges, but developing our wellbeing, resilience, and seeking help early can help prevent challenges becoming serious.

Readers’ comments

How can I improve my mental health?

Dear Prof,

I have been having problem with my mental health.  What is the best way to improve my mental well-being?

Chika, Enugu

Prof says,

To improve your mental health, you must learn to stay positive.  It is important to try to have a positive outlook.  You can do this by finding balance between positive and negative emotions. Staying positive doesn’t mean that you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger. You need to feel them so that you can move through difficult situations.  Also, try to hold on to the positive emotions when you have them. 

Take a break from negative information.  Practice gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life.  Take care of your physical health, since your physical and mental health is connected, also get enough sleep, eat healthily, and connect with others.  intense fear of being away from you, is incapable of functioning in childcare because of his aggressiveness, and so forth.

What to do in a mental health emergency?

Dear Prof,

What can I  do, during  a mental health emergency?

Chika, Enugu

Prof says,

To improve your mental health, you must learn to stay positive.  It is important to try to have a positive outlook.  You can do this by finding balance between positive and negative emotions. Staying positive doesn’t mean that you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger. You need to feel them so that you can move through difficult situations.  Also, try to hold on to the positive emotions when you have them. 

Take a break from negative information.  Practice gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life.  Take care of your physical health, since your physical and mental health is connected, also get enough sleep, eat healthily, and connect with others.  intense fear of being away from you, is incapable of functioning in childcare because of his aggressiveness, and so forth.

How anxiety affects you

Are you worried about each and everything that happens in your life? If it’s happening on regular basis then it can be a symptom of anxiety.

 A 2017 study has estimated that 264 million people worldwide experienced anxiety disorders and across the world, it varies from 2.5 to 7 percent by country.   A big event or a build-up of smaller stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety – for example, a death in the family, work stress or ongoing worry about finances.  So, if you are unable to live your life up to the mark you have imagined; then please consider consulting a Psychologist.

Note:  If you have comments, questions and  contributions, please reach out to us on: +2348037004611 or email us at [email protected]

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.