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Dealing with mental illness stigma



By Ibiyemi Shindara

I can already guess that when you saw the topic for this article, the first picture that came to your mind is the picture of a mentally ill person (persons most of us call mad) on a street wrapped up in dirt with a makeshift drum and microphone.

However, this is why this article is being written, to enlighten you on what mental illness is and how to treat people with mental illness. Truth be told, there are a large chunk of Nigerians roaming freely and going to their various destinations on a daily basis but they don’t know that they have a mental illness. I can imagine that if they all got to find out, they will most probably treat people who are also dealing with it better or worse, they act hypocritical and pretend to ignore its existence.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that a whopping 20 percent of Nigerians, or around 40 million people, are affected by mental illness.

In the same vein, a survey of over 5,000 Nigerians conducted in 2020 revealed that many Nigerians only perceive a person as having a mental health disorder when disruptive behavior attracts public attention. This stigma is also evident in romantic relationships, with most Nigerians, especially females, unwilling to engage in relationships with people living with mental health disorders. Respondents were also of the view that mental health diseases can be prevented if people stop taking hard drugs and are prayerful. Many believe that a mental health disorder is a curse from God or punishment for the victim’s wrongdoing.

The reason is because mental health is not a topic that is often talked about in a place like NIGERIA. I mean, imagine the law saying if you are caught attempting suicide, you are going to be jailed. Make it make sense to me. Not saying suicide is an option and I am not also judging you for thinking of suicide. If you are looking for someone who actually thinks of suicide most of the time, na me be this, it accompanies the illness I am battling with.

Back to my point, they don’t need to be jailed for God’s sake! Take them to a hospital and get them treated. Why do you think we have mentally ill people roaming on the streets? It just doesn’t make sense. When I see this people roaming on the street, I see myself in them. Not so fun fact: my diagnosis started with severe depressive disorder and PSYCHOSIS. Yes, psychosis but proper treatment made me better. Because in all honesty, if they had started treatment earlier it wouldn’t have gotten to the stage of loosing total control. But it’s not too late for them to get the necessary help that they need.

All I am saying is we have emotions too. And yes, there is something called MENTAL ILLNESS! It deals with a an abnormality brain! Okay?

I can’t even begin to talk about the sleepless nights, weakness, screaming, being stabilized with injections, scars on my laps from cutting myself, overdosing on drugs and a whole lot more.

I also posted a video recently of me dancing and jumping giving vibes and that might make mental illness seem easy to deal with. However, I might be smiling on the outside, but deep within I am hurting so bad. I have experienced depression so I definitely know what I am talking about. You see, that’s one of the problems we face as mental health warriors.

Recently, I got admitted to the hospital 28th of September and got discharged 9th of October. Most mental health warriors won’t tell you all this because it requires a lot of strength and courage to be vulnerable considering the fact that some people will call us “attention seekers.”

But I have made that decision to put myself out there. Yes, it might seem like you know everything about me but trust me you don’t.

As humans, we must do better in treating each other with grace and respect. You don’t have to downplay what someone else is feeling because there are yet to be any physical manifestations as with illness such as malaria or ulcer. For this introductory article, the focus on dealing with mental illness stigma is YOU reading this. Here are 5 things you should never presume about a person dealing with mental illness:

  1. They are attention seekers

No, we are not attention seekers. Being vulnerable about your struggles takes a lot of courage and the moment a warrior chooses to do that; instead of labeling them; why not show empathy?

  1. They are responsible for the illness

It’s debilitating enough that they subconsciously self-stigmatize themselves; you shouldn’t add to that. Like I explained earlier, mental illness can be a combination of various factors like genetic, alteration in brain chemistry, environmental factors and so much. It is such a broad concept and the warriors shouldn’t be judged for experiencing something they didn’t ask for.

  1. Never assume that an individual with a mental illness cannot function normally in the society

There are millions of people out there with mental illness are are holding high positions in their respective fields. Mental illness doesn’t mean mediocrity or inability to function. Personally, as a mental health warrior, I have never allowed my illness stop me from pursuing my goals and dream just like I am doing right now. With proper personalized treatment, an individual can cope effectively.

  1. The healing process differs 

We are all humans beings with different interests right? Same thing works in the mental health world. Coping mechanism for person A might not be the same for person B. So don’t assume because you met person A with a mental illness and he/she is doing really well in academics doesn’t mean it would be the same with Person B. In therapy, a personalized treatment plan is developed to help each individual cope with their triggers and stressors in the best way they can utilizing their various strengths.

  1. They would always be in pain

Mental illness is not marked by a constant period of elongated “suffering” or pain. NO. We also have joy, peace and happiness regardless of our struggles. Proper Treatment is a very important factor in the healing process of every mental health warrior because you get to learn that battling a mental illness doesn’t mean the end of the world for you.

With the above, I hope I have been able to adopt you as an advocate for mental illness. Join me next week as we explore the topic of depression as prominent mental illness.

For my mental health warriors; both diagnosed and undiagnosed. I will always end all of my articles this way;

I love you and I am rooting for you on your healing journey.

Ibiyemi Shindara is a mental health advocate. She can be reached on Instagram: ibiyemi_shindara or via email [email protected]

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NAFDAC recalls Benylin children syrups



By Matthew Denis

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has recalled one of Benylin Paediatric Syrups, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

NAFDAC disclosed this on its website on Wednesday, stating that the laboratory analysis conducted on the product showed that it contains an unacceptable high level of Diethylene glycol and was found to cause acute oral toxicity in laboratory animals.

“Diethylene glycol is toxic to humans when consumed and can prove fatal. Toxic effects can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state, and acute kidney injury, which may lead to death,” NAFDAC explained.

Benylin Paediatric syrup is indicated for the relief of cough and its congestive symptoms and for the treatment of hay fever and other allergic conditions in children aged 2 to 12 years.

The details of the product showed that the product was manufactured by Johnson & Johnson in Cape Town, South Africa.

With batch number 329304, the product was manufactured in May 2021, and it is to expire this April 2024.

NAFDAC has, therefore, implored importers, distributors, retailers and consumers to exercise caution and vigilance within the supply chain to avoid the importation, distribution, sale and use of the substandard (contaminated) regulated products.

“All medical products must be obtained from authorised/licensed suppliers. The products’ authenticity and physical condition should be carefully checked.

“Anyone in possession of the above-mentioned product is advised to immediately discontinue sale or use and submit stock to the nearest NAFDAC office. If you witness any adverse reaction/event after the use of this product in any children, you are advised to direct such patients for immediate medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional,” the agency cautioned.

Meanwhile, NAFDAC has urged healthcare professionals and consumers to report any suspicion of substandard and falsified medicines to the nearest NAFDAC office.

Similarly, healthcare professionals and patients are also encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of the medicinal product to the nearest NAFDAC office, or through the use of the E-reporting platforms available on its website.

Also, the agency has directed the Marketing Authorisation Holder (Johnson and Johnson company West Africa) to initiate the recall of the batch and the notice will also be uploaded to the WHO Global Surveillance and Monitoring System (GSMS).

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World Health Day: 250 people receive free diabetes screening in Asaba



No fewer than 250 people have received free diabetes screening in Asaba, Delta, to celebrate the 2024 World Health Day.

The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Asaba Specialist Hospital, Dr Peace Ighosewe, who led other management staff in organising the event,  said the screening was part of efforts by the hospital to promote healthy living.

The World Health Day which was established on April 7, the founding date of the World Health Organisation (WHO) serves to raise awareness of global health issues and garner support for their resolution.

Ighosewe said that healthy living was key to good health for Nigerians.

She said there was a need to create awareness on the importance of healthy living and that everyone had the right to access good health at an affordable cost.

“We are also engaging in a health walk and talk, to celebrate the 2024 World Health Day,” she said.

Ighosewe added that the event was also organised in line with the theme for this year’s World Health Day, which is: “Your Health, Your Right.”

A cross-section of Asaba residents including the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Delta State Governor, Mrs Veronica Abang-Gwam, participated in the diabetes screening at the hospital.

Ighosewe further added that the general public was sensitised on the need to exercise regularly, to help maintain physical fitness and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

“Eat a balanced diet which will provide essential nutrients for optimal health; go for routine medical checkups to allow for easy detection, timely intervention and management of any health issues.

“In line with the ‘MORE Agenda’  of Gov. SherrifOborevwori’s administration, the Asaba Specialist Hospital will continue to do its part,  to empower members of the surrounding communities with the right information on the importance of prioritising healthy habits.

“These healthy habits can significantly improve their physical health, mental wellbeing and quality of life,” Ighosewe said.

Consultant Family Physician and Head of Department, Family Medicine, Asaba Specialist Hospital, Dr Dominic Uwadia, who also spoke at the event, said the hospital would continue to promote healthy living and disease prevention in the state.

Uwadia urged the people not to wait till they get ill before getting necessary medical attention.

The Medical Laboratory Scientist of the hospital, Ms Faith Emetonjor, also advised people to live a healthy life, noting: “Your Health is Your Right.”

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NAFDAC meets manufacturers, frowns at marketing of breast-milk substitutes



…Says substitute undermining health of babies

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has met with the Association of Infant Food Manufacturers and Marketers in Nigeria (AIFMN) on the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes noting that the marketing of breast-milk substitutes is undermining the health of babies.

Speaking at an interaction with the stakeholders, Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye who was represented by the Director of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN), Mrs. Eva Edwards disclosed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) global target for exclusive breastfeeding is 50 percent by 2025, while the demographic and health survey indicates that only 28.7 percent of nursing mothers embrace exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria.

She reiterated the need for Nigerian nursing mothers to embrace exclusive breastfeeding of their infants for the first six months of life to improve the health status of their newborns.

She emphasised that NAFDAC remains resolutely committed to implementing and monitoring adherence to the provisions of the Code as the Agency designated by law for this responsibility in the amendment Decree No. 22 – Marketing (Breast-milk Substitutes) of 1999.

Exclusive breastfeeding – defined as the practice of only giving an infant breast milk for the first 6 months of life (no other food or water) – has the single largest potential impact on child mortality of any preventive intervention. It is part of optimal breastfeeding practices, which also include initiation within one hour of life and continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond.

The NAFDAC boss pointed out that exclusive breastfeeding is the best start in life and the cornerstone of child survival and health because it provides essential, irreplaceable nutrition as nature intended for a child’s optimal growth and development.

Prof Adeyeye, noted that inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes contributes to undermining efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and duration.

According to her, the stakeholders’ engagement with the Association of Infant Food Manufacturers and Marketers in Nigeria (AIFMN) is aimed at fostering fruitful dialogue on the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Code) and the National Regulations on the Marketing of Infant and Young Children Food and other Designated Products (Registration, Sales etc).

She explained that the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, including the subsequent relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions aim to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when they are necessary, based on adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.

‘’We cannot overemphasise the significance of breastfeeding in the context of maternal and child health,” she said, adding that recognising the irreplaceable impact of breastfeeding on the health and development of infants and young children all over the world, and for the purpose of the engagement, infants and young children in Nigeria, NAFDAC remains resolutely committed to implementing and monitoring adherence to the provisions of the Code as the Agency designated by law for this responsibility in the amendment Decree No. 22 – Marketing (Breast-milk Substitutes) of 1999.

She further explained that the responsibility for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the provisions of the Code and national regulations covers the spectrum of actors in the infant and young child feeding space (and their actions): these include manufacturers, distributors, marketers, and other stakeholders.

‘’You will recall that the sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, which held in 2016 adopted Resolution WHA69.9 which urged Member States and health professionals to implement the recommendations in the accompanying WHO Guidance on Ending Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children,” she said, adding that the Guidance seeks to ensure that financial support for infant and young child health programmes and workers do not create conflicts of interest (COI).

It states that “companies that market foods for infants and young children should not sponsor meetings of health professionals and scientific meetings and that health workers, health systems, and health professional associations should not allow such sponsorship.”

Prof. Adeyeye further stated that the Guidance also notes that health professionals and facilities are often targeted and influenced by the infant and young child food industry through promotion, relationships, and incentives, and that these incentives create conflicts of interest and can result in the loss of independence, integrity, and public credibility.

She said a conflict of interest arises every time anyone (including a non-professional health worker or health educator) whose duty it is to promote breastfeeding accepts some kind of gift or benefit from a company.

‘’Last year, the WHO, together with a Technical Advisory Group (TAG), in recognition of the current trend of digital promotion of BMS, developed the guidance on digital marketing technologies to address these new marketing tools that are powerfully persuasive and often easily recognizable as breast-milk substitute promotions,” she said, adding that digital marketing can indeed deliver breast-milk substitutes promotions covertly.

As regulators, she said “we welcome the development of the guidance document, having dealt with issues of digital promotions of breast-milk substitutes.”

As manufacturers, representatives of manufacturers and marketers, she said, “you are aware of your responsibility to align your practices with the provisions of the BMS Code and national regulations, recognising that inappropriate promotions have a significant impact on infant health, nutrition, and development.”

She said the Agency is fully committed to protecting and promoting breastfeeding to address threats that marketing of breastmilk substitutes (BMS) pose to optimal breastfeeding practices.

She noted that the engagement of stakeholders presented a platform for open dialogue, to increase knowledge on the Code, share insights, experiences, and challenges on implementing the Code in Nigeria, adding that “your collaboration and adherence to the BMS Code are instrumental in creating a conducive environment for optimal infant breastfeeding feeding practices and ensuring the wellbeing of future generations of healthy and productive Nigerians.”

She reminded them that breast-milk substitutes are legitimate products which should be available for use when they are necessary, based on adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.

“Our concern is strictly on inappropriate marketing practices. In the spirit of creating a conducive environment where the health and well-being of mothers and infants are prioritized, I wish us a fruitful and interactive session,” she said.

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