Last week, I had the fortune of speaking with one of my young friends, who incidentally is my cousin. And very much like many young person that I know, she was depressed and leaning towards to suicide. How did I know? I saw her tweet some cryptic text that showed the state of mind. I got worried and probed. Her reply? “I am tired.” 


We conversed further and from our conversation, I realized she was expressing deep frustrations about the country, the economy, how things weren’t going as smoothly as she had planned. Things she said weren’t all together strange to hear, that is; the jobs are not there, her relationship situation wasn’t great, there was pressure and expectation from home. She’s a young lady, but she did not have enough time to really be young. 


These days, being a young person, considering the situation of the country, you have to grow up quickly. Our economy is not in a great place such that a young person can afford to enjoy being young— adulthood comes faster than you plan. I read a tweet where Ogbeni Dipo said that he was 23 when he first worked in Nigeria. But in the UK most of his friends started working at 16–17. In other climes, immediately after your high school you start working. This isn’t because they’re hopeless, but because there’s a robust economy that allows internships, informal jobs and it allows people to get formal job later on, learn about professional ethics, and equip them quickly to earn respectable and equitable income from when they’re young. It also forces them to grow up a bit faster but more importantly, it helps them to become more independent earlier while not losing the feel of being young.


In Nigeria, things are different. Culturally, your parents are meant to raise you from when birth to graduation which is about 21–23. Thus, essentially for a Nigerian child, from when you’re born till you return from your NYSC (sometime even beyond), you’re meant to be dependent. Typically, you don’t see Nigerians work within that time unless they want to or allowed to, as the case may be. Now, from when they graduate, they have to support themselves and after a while support their parents. That’s the story for many Nigerians. 


However, for this my cousin and many others, because things have been hard— prolly your parents lose their job, the economy is bad, or you lose one parent— then the challenge becomes even greater. This young person (my cousin) whose mates are always going to parties, enjoying themselves, has got to start working at age 15. She’s been working for so long that she’s never really had time to live. At the age when her peers socialize, network, and make friends, this cousin of mine has not only been saddled with the responsibility of raising herself but also supports the home because she lost one of the family. And due to the current economic situation, things were already getting to head and she was really losing her marbles.


I’m sharing this thought because I am aware that many many Nigerian youths are going through the same scenario right now.


Last year, when the pandemic was landing in Africa around March and the country was shutting down, I said on one of the WhatsApp groups that I belong to, “you guys don’t know what is coming”. I say that because I was sure that the lockdown and  consequences of the pandemic would be more ghastly in Africa than anywhere else in the world. We have our challenges and natural situations plus the pandemic compelling us to a lockdown, inevitably, there were going to be so many job losses, constriction of our economy, massive devaluation of the naira, and of course a nosedive of crude oil prices. It was just evident that the consequences were going to be dire. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for the economy to slip into recession and there was a lot of talk about depression. There was some comment in the papers last week about our economy mirroring the Great Depression of the 1930s where people committed suicides because of hunger. 


Now, coming back to the issue.

The truth is, there are more indices of depression today than we ever had. There was a guy who committed suicide on Twitter few days ago who had posted a couple of days before his demise that he was desperately in need of money, but his cry fell on deaf ears or blind eyes, so to speak.  People are in dire straits today unlike before where most mental issues weren’t as tied to economics as it is. We’re seeing that the economics of our country and personal economics and experiences are affection mental health more now than ever before. 


So, I’m going to speak to these young people. Before things get dire, before it gets to a point where it’ll be difficult for you to reverse course, I’m going to ask you to please, step away. 


What do I mean by that?

A lot of time, depression isn’t something you would be able to manage. If you were, you won’t be in depression because depression means you’re going into a downward spiral— a slippery slope that takes you down. If you could, every one can take themselves into depression and step back. I’ve never been depressed except for a time where I felt feelings of it. Then, I was in a job where I did so wonderfully in my view. And when the  assessment score came, I had 64. I had never scored anything as low as that— a poor year for me was if I scored 79. I was usually in the 80s or I expected to be in the 90s. It was cataclysmic for me and I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to work. I’ll go to the office, open my laptop, read mails and it won’t make sense to me. I couldn’t sit down in the office and not stop thinking about the score, because I knew I was working myself to death, almost literally. So, what I did was, whenever I resumed at the office, I’ll show my face, then go sit, snack and muse at the eatery. I was really frustrated and sad. This happened for about a week. But for some reason I pulled myself back and said “I’m going to go at it again. I’m going to take a stab at it again.”


I suspect that not only have I not been deeply depressed, but that not many are able to reverse course especially when they get to that downward spiral. 


What am I saying?

When I say step away I mean that for young people who are wont to be depressive or who have melancholic thoughts or whose thoughts seem to bind them into a circle of things that are right or wrong or things that are not there, I’m going to advise you to reverse course, just like I advised my cousin. 


I’m saying this because for those who are going to be saved, be able to reverse course, escape this downward spiral that could take them to suicide it a complete mental collapse, my advice is that you should step back earlier in the day you have to pay attention to the fact that things can be worse, but in the same vein, they can actually be better. And a lot of the time, if you situate the issues within the context of not just what is happening but what can happen, you will realize that you can make better decisions or get help.


One of the ways you can step back is to find someone who you can use as an anchor. Pay attention to the ship. No matter how huge or monstrous a ship is, it remains just a speck in the ocean. That is, the ship can be swept away by the tide. Thus, when a ship decides to go on a journey always with an anchor. When a ship is faced by a turbulent time or it wants to stay still on the sea, what it does is to drop anchor. The anchor finds the seabed and hooks itself to one of the plates on the seabed just so that it is able to keep the ship on a spot. Rather than the ship floating away to a place of nothingness, the anchor keeps the ship rooted. 


A lot of the time, it’s the same. That trap that you feel in your mind about the situation at hand is more because your only advisor, your only support, your second thought is likely yours. Thus, I’m urging you to find an anchor— somebody who you can talk to, somebody who could put the issues in better context. 


The truth is, while talking to my cousin last week, it occured to me that her issues were likely economic. She wasn’t suffering from a terminal illness, for one. She’s lost a parent, but by my last count the parent she lost died more than 10 years ago. 


No matter how dire the economic issues were, a lot of the times they were solvable. Even the ones that you can’t resolve, for example losing someone and not being able to bring them back, a lot of the time when you step back up from the issues and get someone you can speak to, someone who can help put the issues in better context, you would realize that it’s not as bad as you think it is. You’ll realize that these things pushing you towards the end— be it the need for money, a desperate need for a job or companionship/relationship, whatever it may be, a family situation you would rather it was solved— if you spoke to someone about it, you would realize that it wasn’t as bad.  There are people who you can talk to—people who are your friends, your mentor, professionals.  Today, one of the beautiful things I see online is Mentally Aware. They help people who are mentally ill, including people who are depressed and are suicidal. They’re willing to talk to you professionally in a way that’ll help you unburden yourself. 


Thus, I’m urging you to please make an effort to reach out. Although I’m not a professional in that regard, I can help also. If you’ll like me to listen and walk you through some challenges that you might be having just like I did with my cousin, I’ll be willing and happy to help within the realm of my accountable time.  But it’s not just me, they’re a lot of people out there. If you have a mentor or spiritual father that you trust and respect, you should be able to speak to them as well. In this part of the world we tend to attribute every mental illness to spiritual attack, but that’s not my point.  I’m saying a lot of the time, that issue that appears insurmountable, is something that you can easily pack down if someone helps you to situate it within the right context. 


Don’t let yourself loose. Don’t go on the sea without an anchor. For even the ship, no matter how large it is without an anchor, it’s going to drift away, lose control, it will go off course. Don’t let your mind go off course. Don’t get into that spiral that makes you lose control, don’t lose your life, don’t lose your well-being, don’t lose your friend. Don’t indulge in those melancholic moments so much that you lose yourself.


I trust and I hope and I wish that you find your anchor and lean on it in troubling times. I hope and pray that you continue to win. 


Have a blast guys. Cheers.

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