*Photo: Solanke *
It was in the second quarter of 2001 when I resumed in Ibadan as Editorial Board member and Deputy Editor of The Monitor on Sunday, a weekend newspaper in the stable of the Ibadan based Monitor newspapers published by the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Ajhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola Alao.
I decided to do something different by focusing its health page primarily on Mental Health. To the University College Hospital, Orita-Mefa Ibadan to seek out the current Provost of the College of Medicine University of Ibadan, the tall, ebony skinned, young and beautiful Dr. Yinka Omigbodun, to recruit her, ex-gratia, as a columnist on Mental Health for the paper.
Every Friday, I would be at UCH to trouble the cheerful and ever radiant scholar of psychiatry for her column, Mental Health with Dr, Yinka Omigbodun to meet my production deadline.
Editing and producing the regular Sunday feature of Prof. Omigbodun , then a consultant and senior lecturer in Psychiatry with specialization on children, youth and women mental issues was for me a rewarding experience in my journey in journalism, as I opened my mind to absorb her rich insights and profound knowledge on that aspect of health that is generally confused or misunderstood and so mismanaged in our society in the way we deal with those in the blues or shackles of mental health challenges. The first theme I remember she dealt with in her column was STRESS.
Today, millions of men and women are in the grip of stressors and depressants, agonizing on what should ordinarily be seen as normal phase of life. Painfully and silently, they are grinding and roasting in the mill and grill of stressors and depressing circumstances , praying fervently to see an end soon to their predicaments or end it all finally when their prayers seem unanswered and no solution is seen in sight.
These stressors and depressants are the portents that constitute the inescapable realities of our everyday life which are challenging as the inevitability of life, having telling effects on the mental and psychological well-being, job performance, social connectedness and general life quality in all who are trapped in its vicious cycle. These stressors are the reasons for the increasing suicidal thoughts, attempts and actual suicides. They are behind the hopelessness and the anomie countless people manifest in the society.
On the other end, they are the reasons some go into morally debasing and health compromising lifestyles leading to corruption and justification of moral hollowness and therefore, perishing themselves in the storms and tides of life. So, sudden and untimely death, stroke and high blood pressure and sicknesses which drain the purses of hapless victims are commonplace in our society because of these stressors and depressants.
Unfortunately, an industry of exploitation is thriving on the misfortune of stress and depression that people grapple with in the poor countries where fakeries and crimes of all sorts fester. From miracle workers, prosperity preachers, strange and fringe faiths, child labour, baby factory syndromes, alcoholism to cover up, drug abuse to be high performing, cult membership for security,, ritual killing as well as human and drug trafficking and deliberate option of slavery in the name of japa, people try to find justification for dabbling into crime and corruption as the quickest and surest means to wealth as grinding poverty is readily adduced as the precursor to stress and depression.
The interesting thing about stressors is that they need not only arise from tests, trials and tribulations of life such as the death of a beloved, poverty, ill-health, denials and loneliness.
They may indeed be bye products of our arrival at the big stage of life, in celebration of our achievements, promotion on job, arrival of new babies, marriage of our love, dedication of our new house, preparation for journey on winning the cherished visa lottery, hitting a jackpot, winning a prized contract or indeed just anything that increases the tempo of our life or cause disruption of our normal flow or order. Psychotherapists found a convenient and euphemistic way of describing this life changing phenomenon as e-stress.
On the other hand, such issues and concerns that cause fear or trepidation such as heavily hanging debt, outstanding school fees to be paid, unmet expectation from spouses, difficult bosses at work, mounting assignments, unmet deadlines and unrealistic targets can cause drudgery and lead many to breaking points and eventual breakdown when they are stretched beyond limit by the distressing stressors and depressing circumstances of life and challenges which manifest in a range of inexplicable ailments.
Indeed, fear of the unknown that led to many pessimistic questions on life generally in the realm of the future aggravate the stress that many people experience. So, while still alive, they are haunted by the fear of what happens after they have gone to the great beyond. What is the fate of my children after I’m gone? Will my children able to sustain my legacy? Will they make it in life? How can they cope without me?
The stress in the life of many are their failing, floundering, sick and problematic children, their philandering spouses and narcissistic or uncooperative partners that render many marriages toxic and head for the rocks of messy separation and divorce. It may arise from an approaching academic examination, performance measurement interfaces or promotion and job interviews. For many, it is not even human related. It is in their assets, wealth or possessions.
Today, it is the problem of the car battery and tomorrow it’s the tyre. Shortly after changing the entire car engine arises the problem of gear box. Or, it is in the bid to retain eminence in public and remain relevant in the eyes of the world. So, in sports, music and theatre; in the corporate boardroom or on the chessboard of politics, players are roasting to death from the stress involved in their preoccupation.
In many challenged economies, most citizens are stressed by the absence of necessary public socio-economic infrastructure that enhances decent quality of life. On every index of measuring development, such countries score very low to the extent that longevity in some of them could be less than 50 years. From bad roads to poor water and sanitation to lack of or poor access to everything that make life meaningful and enjoyable, they are just praying for miracle to make things happen.
In my study of this distressing and depressing phenomenon, I found that the solutions to the challenges for which many took the wrong step of ending it all by resort to the rope knot round their necks, downing cyanide or sniper, or taking the last plunge into any massive water body like the Lagoon for which Third Mainland Bridge or Lekki Ikoyi Link Bridge are now popular may just be talking to someone, changing some habits and values, adopting a new lifestyle or even getting off your seat in office and strolling around the vicinity to ease tension and reduce stress as relief from stressors and depressants can be achieved as cheaply as just going on long treks to keep fit, taking regular naps to cool off or drinking more cups of water to hydrate a tired body and flagging skin.
I pray to Allah to grant me the grace to address these strategies in greater details soon as I continue my wise whisperings in commemorating my 35th year in the writing craft. Alhamdulillah!
*Abdulwarees SoIanke is
Strategic Planning & Corporate Development Department,
Voice of Nigeria, Wuse, FCT, Abuja