On Becoming Champions

The week of July 29th through to August 2nd, 2019 was a busy week for Gede Foundation. We had training of champions (who are people with lived experience of mental health problems and work to end stigma and discrimination), stakeholders meetings as well as story gathering. These events occurred concurrently and with the support of Time to Change Global (TTCG) and Christian Blind Mission (CBM).

 TTCG has been working in the United Kingdom for 12 years to end stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems. Their approach, which is having one on one conversations between people with lived mental health experience and those without, has shown that there is significant reduction in stigma and discrimination. This approach is being replicated in 5 countries, namely Ghana, Uganda, India, Kenya, and now, Nigeria.

The training, alongside other activities started on July 30th, 2019. Twenty (20) champions were trained by the coordinator from Gede Foundation - Zunzika Thole . It lasted for two days and had a lot of activities to prepare the champions for Social Contact, which is where they will have one on one conversations mentioned above. The champions were educated on the differences between mental health, mental wellbeing and mental health problems. Furthermore, they shared how they have been discriminated against and how this project will help curb the stigma and discrimination. 

By the end of the training, the champions were made aware of some of the things they aren’t allowed to do, such as be experts on mental health or become counsellors as they are not trained specialists - they are only experts of their own experiences. 

On Friday, 2nd August, Ruth Stone supported 8 champions to prepare them on how to speak to the media about mental health problems as well as how to respond to difficult questions which will no doubt come about as the project goes further.

Please come back to the blog as there will be a lot more exciting news and events as the project unfolds!!!


Gede Foundation, Time to Change (TTCG) and Christian Blind Mission (CBM) visited relevant stakeholders in Abuja from July 29 through August 2 2019. The aim was to explore partnership opportunities with government agencies and networks, which, essentially, will help in achieving the objectives of a planned pilot project on anti-stigma for mental illness in Nigeria. Recently, the 3 organizations entered a tripartite agreement to address stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

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The team visited Karu Behavioral Medicine Unit, Federal Ministry of Health, National Orientation Agency and Network of People living with HIV-AIDS in Nigeria.

Each of these 4 organizations have specific areas and ways in which they would contribute to the success of the pilot project including i) treatment and care for people with mental illness at the community and facility levels, ii) policy development and access to implementation guidelines for mental health services delivery, ii) information dissemination and reporting at all level and, iv) community mobilization for behavior change against people living with HIV-ADS and mental illness.

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In addition to other challenges, stigma and discrimination were rated high as a major barrier in accessing   quality mental health services both at the community and facility levels.

It is hoped that stakeholders’ efforts in this project will help confront stigma and discrimination in anticipation of a significant uptake of mental health services beyond the pilot project cycle.

The team comprised of Godwin Etim (Gede Foundation,) Jeremy Boglosa (Gede Foundation), Joe Odogwu (Gede Foundation), Philip Ode (CBM) and Polly Newall (TTCG)


Gede Foundation participated in a 3-day training on “Children and Adults-at-Risk Safeguarding Workshop” from 18th to 20th June 2019, in Abuja. The workshop was organized by Christoffel-Blindermission (CBM), also known as Christian Blind Mission, for its partners in Ghana and Nigeria. The training aimed to build partners capacity in formulating safeguarding policies, and ways which they could be implemented, as this is central to CBM’s Ethics and Code of Conducts in service delivery. 

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The workshop was declared opened by CBM’s Country Director in Nigeria, Bright Ekweremadu, whose keynote address welcomed participants and also gave directions on the utilization of the outcomes of the workshop.

A combination of presentations and group works helped in the delivery of the workshop contents.

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Sessions were led by Jackie Kwesiga from CBM Uganda and Doris K, CBM Togo which  focused on the following areas   i) the value of safeguarding, ii) the scope of protection and safeguarding, iii) child abuse and its symptoms , iv) simulation of incident management, v) the concept of adults at risks and what constitute abuse, vi) developing a safeguarding policy, vii) safeguarding in health programmes, viii)  programme specific risks to children and adults, and,  xi) safeguarding risk assessment.

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At the end, participants showed understanding in various sessions as demonstrated in the outcomes of group works where samples of Risk Assessment Templates and organizational safeguarding Plan of Action were produced. It is expected that participants will organize a step down training to colleagues and, subsequently, mainstream safeguarding into its policies and programme areas.


On May 9, 2019, Gede Foundation, Time To Change (TTC), and Christian Blind Mission (CBM), entered into a tripartite agreement to pilot an anti-stigma campaign, addressing mental illness and epilepsy in Abuja, Nigeria.

Time to Change is a project based in England and Wales, involving a growing movement of people changing the thinking and actions about mental health. The campaign is run by charities— Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, where thousands of organisations have joined to make the necessary change happen.

In Nigeria, the  project will help to improve public attitudes towards people with mental health problems, reduce the amount of discrimination people with mental health problems report in their personal relationships, and make sure even more people with mental health problems can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and online.

The campaign will build in sustainability from the outset; the overall ambition is to support local champions and partners to embed anti-stigma work within local communities and organisations, and to robustly evaluate impact to enable learning to be shared and funding secured beyond the lifetime of this programme.

The Time to Change Global Programme is funded by the UK Government via the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) and is managed by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Kindly visit the website in a couple of months to read more on the project activities.

Understanding the terror of suicide and how to help a suicidal person


“Attention seeker”

“I’m also in your shoes”

“I had it worse but here I am”

“I failed several times but nothing happened. I’m still alive”

“I have a bad marriage too, so what’s your problem”

“You can’t go through with it, weakling!”

“You’re just ungrateful for life”

“You’re not the only one feeling the bad economy”

Each time a person talks about their misfortune, somehow, we instinctively want to acknowledge that pain by relating it to our situation. Sometimes, it’s not done out of spite. Sometimes, it’s out of fear or confusion. I remember a day in my childhood when I crossed a busy road without looking, and almost got hit by a truck. When I got to the other side, my mum landed a big “abara” across my back (good ol’ African smacking). I was so confused as to why she did it. But as I grew, I understood that she didn’t do it to hurt me intentionally. She was genuinely scared, and that was her reaction. The point is, when we’re scared and confused as to how to handle a situation, we react in a way that might hurt the person we’re looking out for. However, that’s not ruling out the fact that some people are just plain insensitive.

I lost a friend to Suicide a year ago, and every day, I wish it didn’t happen. I wish I knew she was battling with her mind. I wish I was available to help. While I understand that all these regrets won’t bring her back, it doesn’t reduce the level of pain I feel each time I remember.

MJ or known as mama J wasn’t depressed or suffering from a mental illness. She got overwhelmed with bills, got frustrated, held on to a horrible marriage because her church encouraged suffering and praying and holding on to a cheating, abusive, and quite useless husband. On a hot Sunday, she came back from church, got a bottle of pesticide and drank the content. Apparently, she had been talking about being tired of everything but each time she said it, people around (my grandmother included) would say “It is well o. Everybody is just tired o. This Nigeria is hard”. When she overdosed on pills in her workplace, her colleagues said she did it to get a raise as life is hard for everyone too. “No need to kill yourself over unpaid rent abeg”. When she died, they posted pictures of her with captions of how sweet she was. Na so e dey happen.

I wish they knew that sometimes, people end their lives out of frustration. I wish they knew that even though everyone has it rough, people don’t have the same level of resilience. It’s just like an alcohol threshold. One time, I got drunk and sat quietly in a corner for a full hour. My roommate on the other hand, danced and practically raped the floor, then danced around with so much energy before throwing up on her bed. What doesn’t kill you might make you stronger but push your friend under.

I’m not sure one can understand suicide if you’ve not really tried to end your own life. As someone who has attempted it more than twice, I’d say it’s a very liberating, scary, and frustrating task. One moment, you’re sure. The next, you’re not so sure anymore. The first time I attempted it, I was so sure I needed to go away. So I overdosed on my Antipsychotics. When I started getting cold feet (My feet was literally getting cold) and my chest felt heavy, I clumsily picked my phone and tried to reach out for help.

A friend told me a while ago “Sometimes, you don’t really want to die. You just don’t want to feel the pain anymore”. When you reach a point a despair, your mind is clouded to the point where you don’t see any other way out. So you don’t hear that “Suicide is not an option”. You don’t hear that “Keep going”. Just like David Foster’s quote about Suicide and hopelessness, nobody understands the terror of jumping like the person who makes the jump. “You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling”

I see a lot of people say “So why did they let the world know before they tried it. They’re simply not ready to die” and other awful comments, so I asked a friend who had updated her Whatsapp status moments before attempting Suicide why she made it known. Her response was “I was so tired. I just wanted people to know I had tried to hold on for so long. I also wanted some assurance. I needed someone to let me know there was something worth living for. Even when I really just wanted to die. It’s very weird but I sort of needed reassurance, and there’s a thrill in knowing that you’d take your own life. It’s the same thrill you feel when you take a dope picture and see the ‘finish upload’ tick before it’s posted on Instagram”

Here’s a quick fact about Suicide. Most people who have suicidal thoughts do not carry them through to their conclusion. Yup. It’s very true, and I can see why some people might shame someone who isn’t successful with an attempted suicide. The shame might make the suicidal person try it again. It’s similar to a do or die affair. You either help the person get better or worsen the whole thing. You see, suicidal thoughts are common, and many people experience them when they are undergoing stress, bad economy, heartbreak, frustration, grief or experiencing depression. So dear internet people, LET PEOPLE SPEAK UP! LET THEM EXPERIENCE THEIR PAIN THEIR OWN WAY BECAUSE YOU COULD NEVER UNDERSTAND BEING IN ANOTHER PERSON’S SHOES. You can relate, but understand? I’m not so sure.

The internet tells people to get help. “If you are suffering from depression or are suicidal, don’t suffer in silence” yet attack them as soon as they speak up. “Nobody is perfect” yet you expect perfection.

I’d like to share few things you can do when someone says they’re suicidal (even when it’s on Twitter and you feel the person is trying to seek attention. This is because you really can’t say when a suicidal ideation is real. And I understand that sometimes people genuinely want to help but don’t know what to do, so here goes:

  • Put religious sentiments aside and try to avoid saying “It is well, you’ll be fine, God forbid, You’re too strong for this, you’ll overcome, you just need money” I know those are the Nigerian first aid help phrases, so avoid them. I can truly tell you they don’t help that much. I’d just roll my eyes as a suicidal person.

  • Get a close friend or family member to reach out to them or stay with them till that feeling passes.

  • Send them sweet and encouraging text messages, tell them they can rant to you, tag @MentallyAwareNG on social media (if it’s an emergency) to reach out to them. Now, if your friend confides in you and it’s not an emergency, please, don’t go posting their names on social media seeking for help. You can reach MANI to help you with what to say or how to get through to your loved one.

  • Be quiet and don’t interject when they’re talking to you. Don’t try to sound smart or woke or religious. They won’t get it or it might just irritate them. Also, don’t leave them alone for long.

  • Try to make them see a counselor or psychologist afterwards. (I had a friend who told me his heart skipped a beat when I told him to speak with a therapist. You can be subtle and say “Would you like to speak with someone who might understand better and is trained to make you feel better. You can always still rant and talk to me. I’ll be here. But it’ll mean so much to me if you do”) Don’t say you understand when you don’t.

  • Avoid saying things like ‘you have so much going on for you’ ‘you have a good job’ or you have money na or ‘others have it worse’ as It makes their pain seem insignificant, and by saying that, you’re either going to make them feel ashamed or angry, and they’ll either stop communicating with you or end up carrying out the suicidal attempt much later.

  • Be kind to everyone. You don’t know what they’re going through. One insensitive word can trigger harmful thoughts. Not everyone looks like what they’re going through. BE KIND TO PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY ON THE INTERNET. IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREE.

In summary, let people speak their truth, be empathic and sensitive to other people’s pain. You may have it worse, you may have failed Jamb 20 and 1 times, you may have lost your parents earlier than Arya stark, you may be in a broken marriage, you may have lost your job just last week, you may be running at a business loss, you may be battling with a mental illness, you may be planning a difficult breakup, you may be on the onset of a relapse, I just want to say I’m sending you love, light, and truckloads of virtual hugs. Share with others too, help them get help, let them speak!



Shola Ajayi

Culled from Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative

*If you or anyone you know is facing depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please call these numbers 08091116264, 08062106493, 08092106493. 

So Sad: UNN 1st class student Chukwuemeka Akachi commits suicide, leaves suicide note

A 1st class student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN Chukwuemeka Akachi, has committed suicide after dropping a suicide note on Facebook.

The first class final year student of English and Literary studies had been been having a long battle with mental health.

His message read:

“Suicide Note.
Forgive me. In case you are the one who found the body, I am really sorry. It had to be someone, you know. I have chosen Jo Nketaih’s poem as my suicide note: “They said you came looking for me. I didn’t drown; I was the water.” Where do atheists go to when they die? lol. Amen.”

Akachi died yesterday, after leaving a suicide note and revealing his long battle with mental health on Facebook.

*If you or anyone you know is going through something similar, please call these numbers for immediate help 08062106493, 08092106493

Culled from here.

End of BasicNeeds USA Project

As our regular readers would recall, Gede Foundation and BasicNeeds USA entered into a partnership to strengthen Self Help Groups (SHGs) and to provide referral pathways for mental health pathways from the Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) to a secondary healthcare centre such as Karu Behavioural Medicine Unit (KBU). 

Since March 2018 that the project has been in existence, over 200 people have been funnelled through the SHGs, to the PHC and finally to KBU. The goal was for service users to ultimately be able to sustain and maintain their mental health issues, with support from the Foundation and BN USA as opposed to ‘helicopter parenting’. The monthly meetings by SHG  in Mpape and Mararaba helped members to discuss their challenges among themselves and they contributed money to assist those with difficulties in accessing drugs and treatment at the health facility. That in itself, is the true definition of a SHG.

Mr. Sunday Itoro, carer of a beneficiary from Mararaba gave a goodwill message regarding his ward, who lives with epilepsy. He explained that before the intervention, the boy was plagued with seizures almost everyday. However, since he started medication, he has been doing relatively well and only has seizures when he goes off his medication.The clinical Psychologist at the event, Samuel Jinadu advised him to never go off medication unless advised by a qualified professional. He noted that this is what usually allows even stronger relapses as the illness is suppressed with medication but once that is taken away, it returns with full force. Many more beneficiaries gave their testimonies and noted how they or their users have benefitted from the project. 

The whole crew!

The whole crew!

Pastor Ishaya, from Mpape brought on the stigma that is never ending. He appealed to everyone present, especially the Foundation and donors to focus more work on destigmatisation. He noted that there have been people who have lost their jobs, their self-worth because they are stigmatised against.  He was open to a livelihood support programme which will empower households to generate income in order to sustain treatment for those whose recovery take longer period.

The event ended with a Q & A session with Mr. Samuel Jinadu where he advised everyone present that they should always do what the doctor prescribes and reiterated that mental illnesses and epilepsy are not spiritual conditions. They are medical conditions that can be managed.He also advised on adherence to doctor’s prescriptions in order to ensure optimal care and quality treatment outcomes.

Please return regularly to the blog as there is more news set to come!! The project may have ended but the SHGs will still be functional and continue to raise awareness, as well as support one another. For more regular updates, please visit our Facebook page, as well as our Twitter.

Int’l women’s Day: FG launches electronic dashboard to fight gender-based violence

Bimbola Oyesola and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja

The Federal Government, has launched an electronic dashboard to document and track gender-based violence, which it said was in the increase, in commemoration of the International Women’s Day, yesterday.

Director General, National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Mary Ekpere-Eta, disclosed this to newsmen, in Abuja, and also, explained that the documentation would go a long in reducing such vices that have given Nigeria a bad name.

She added that the theme of the event; “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,” should spur relevant agencies to arrest and prosecute offenders of gender based violence, and also, rehabilitate victims.

“Working towards the actualisation of the theme and also, provide social protection for women, the Centre, in collaboration with the office of the wife of the president, has established a gender-based violence electronic dashboard to improve documentation and set up tracking mechanism of gender based violence trends across the country,” she said.

In a related development, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said Nigeria and other developing countries need to rejig their developmental models to accommodate more women; if they are to record substantial progress and harness the full potential of their human resources.

The governor said Edo has shown the light in this regard, with prioritisation of women in development, shown through robust gender mainstreaming policies and programmes as well as the enactment of laws that protect women and other vulnerable persons from abuse.

The governor said this in commemoration of the International Women’s Day celebrated every March 8, by the United Nations and its sister organs.

“The celebration is something we look forward to every year because we value our women in Edo and have worked to empower them.

“We have demonstrated this by appointing an adviser on gender and assistants in all the local government areas of the state to interface with women and ensure that their affairs are brought to the limelight.”

Meanwhile, President of the NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), Mrs. Modupe Oyekunle, has said beyond the present 35 percent representation which government seems to adhere to, Nigeria women now want 40 percent.

She said: “The theme calls on us to look at those areas where we can actually balance for better, the first is in the area of gender parity. We want a situation where we will have women inclusion in boards and other top positions.

“This is already happening outside, but, we want it in Nigeria; beyond 35 percent, we want 40 percent.”

The women who had earlier held a rally and a march to the Lagos State Government House earlier in the day, had presented a Charter Bill, which has a seven agenda coalition to the Clerk of the House of Assembly.

Prominent on the Bill, th Centre demanded that government policies on women should, henceforth, be chaired by women.

Mrs. Oyekunle said other issues in the bill include urgent attention to problem of multiple taxation, funds accessibility, protection for women in lower business level, need for women to develop themselves to be able to grab opportunity when it comes.

Culled from Sun News Online

Locked up for trying to take his own life, in a country where suicide is still a crime

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) Last year Ifeanyi Ugokwe was arrested and locked up for weeks. His crime: he tried to take his own life.

After weeks of being hungry and jobless, the 25-year old says he reached breaking point after a security guard pushed him to the ground while he was searching for work at a building site.

"I was tired of walking around that day. And I was determined to work there... so I tried to force my way in, then he pushed me, and I fell down flat on the floor," Ugokwe told CNN.

"I started begging him because I was tired, I really needed that job because I needed to eat."

Humiliated, Ugokwe went to a nearby lagoon and jumped in.

After being rescued by passing fishermen, Ugokwe says he was handed over to police officers who arrested him and put him in jail.

Attempting suicide is a criminal offense in Nigeria, under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, and carries a penalty of up to one year in prison. A holdover from when Nigeria was a British colony, the law was abolished in Britain under the Suicide Act of 1961, which happened after Nigeria gained its independence in 1960.

Ugokwe says he's speaking out about his attempt to take his own life despite stigma around the subject in Nigeria because he doesn't want people to suffer as he did.

When he woke up on the fisherman's boat, Ugokwe says he was angry that his attempt had failed.

Following his arrest, Ugokwe was held at a cell near the Lagos lagoon, in the country's economic capital, before being transferred one week later to another cell on the Lagos mainland.

Ugokwe says he was unaware that attempted suicide was a crime in Nigeria.

"When they put me in the cell, the first thing that came to my mind was what did I do? I didn't kill anybody. I did not steal. What am I doing here? What did I do wrong? It's my life, not (the) government's life," he said.

Shortly after his arrest in February, Ugokwe appeared before a magistrate to determine whether he had committed an offense. His case was postponed and he was transferred to another facility on Lagos Island.

It was there he met Imanuella Ojeah, a criminal lawyer and a member of the Elevation Church in Lagos, whose volunteer prison unit makes weekly trips to local prisons.

"I remember he seemed tired of life. He begged me to get him out of that place. He told me... I am not mad. I am just depressed and don't have money to eat," Ojeah told CNN.

Ojeah and her team represented Ugokwe at his next court appearance at Sabo Magistrates Court, a few weeks later, in April 2017. They were asked if someone was willing to act as a guarantor for Ugokwe and look after his welfare if he were released.

Ojeah found someone from the Elevation Church who agreed to look after Ugokwe and the magistrate dismissed the case.

Although Ugokwe found freedom, the legal process around these types of cases is lengthy and complicated for people suffering from serious mental health issues, says health law expert Cheluchi Onyemelukwe who is campaigning to abolish the suicide law in the country.

"What happens in the legal process is the police arrest you, put you in a cell, and then charge the matter to court and you are arraigned before a magistrate who determines whether it appears an offense has been committed," she says.

As in Ugokwe's case, the survivor is then remanded to jail to wait for a trial date. If found guilty, they may be imprisoned for a maximum of one year.

Although jail terms for suicide survivors are rare, Onyemelukwe says it is the process of arresting and taking them through a legal process that is particularly cruel.

nigeria suicide sexnigeria suicide sex"I believe it doesn't reflect who we are as Nigerians... it is inhumane and I know that we can do better than that. I think it is probably the worst possible thing that you could do to somebody who finds themselves in that sort of situation," she said.

"People who are thrown into a cell right after... wonder why the suicide wasn't successful. It makes people that I have spoken to feel helpless and feel like there really isn't a reason to go on."

Ugokwe says he contemplated suicide again while in jail because of the conditions he was held in.

"The worst part of it was not just that they put me in prison, it was that they locked me in a cell with crazy people. I was with mentally disturbed people. Most of the people there were talking to themselves and jumping around."

In jail, Ugokwe says he and other inmates were forced to take pills.

"At first, when they brought the pills to me, I refused... there was nothing wrong with me, but then I was beaten and forced to take the pills.

"Those pills had terrible effects on me... all I want to do is sleep and eat."

A spokesman for the Lagos division of the Nigerian Prisons Service, which operates prisons in the country, denied Ugokwe's allegations.

"Allegations and incidents of force-feeding, beating and or forceful admission of medication on inmates are false and do not occur in any prison within the Lagos Command," Rotimi Oladokun told CNN in an emailed statement.

"The Controller of Prisons, Lagos Command has no tolerance for such excesses and will not condone such under his command," he added.

The Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem told CNN that although attempted suicide is criminalized in the country, the state does not recommend that anyone should be locked up.

Suicide rates are usually underreported in Nigeria because of the stigma associated with it. However, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 9.5 suicides per every 100,000 people in the country.

Some common causes are depression and anxiety linked to high levels of poverty.

A 2017 WHO report found that Nigerians have the highest incidences of depression in Africa, with around 7,079,815 suffering from depression, a figure that represents 3.9% of the population.

In 2015, Lagos State amended its law to recommend hospital treatment for those who have attempted suicide.

But the law has yet to be changed at a national level and is not currently being considered for review, according to health law expert Onyemelukwe.

"We are guided by what the law says," Kazeem says. "But in the hierarchy of offenses, this is a simple offense, and the recommended action is hospitalization.

"The law does not say anyone should be incarcerated. Attempted suicide is not a crime. It shows some form of disorder which needs medical attention."

Kazeem added: "My office has not prosecuted anyone. The state government does not prosecute attempted suicide victims. We are not aware of any prosecutions, if it was brought to my attention, we would advise against it."

Kazeem said police officers do have prosecutorial powers in Lagos State and he could not speak to whether such a trial went ahead in Ugokwe's case.

Read more: The #MeToo stories you haven't heard: Meet the women speaking out in Nigeria

However, Kazeem acknowledged that more training was needed for police officers.

"We are going to do that education process. They are doing the wrong thing if they lock up victims," he said.

CNN made several requests for a comment from the Lagos State Police Commissioner but did not receive one.

There are frequent reports in local media of survivors being arrested and tried for attempting suicide.

In July this year, a 27-year-old man was charged in court with attempting suicide in June.

Other African countries like Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Gambia, and South Sudan also outlaw suicide.

Onyemelukwe says the suicide law, a legacy of the colonial era, has no place in Nigeria today.

"I want Nigerians to see real people who have attempted suicide and have survived and realize that these are people who could be our friends, our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers.

"Attempted suicide in itself is a risk factor for contemplating suicide. In fact, it is the predictor of the fact that somebody will commit suicide. We are in a place where all of these laws deserve a second, a third, a fourth look until we change it," she added.

She believes police need to be given the power to refer survivors for treatment rather than arrested and put through the legal system.

"The person doesn't have to spend any time in prison," she says.

Life has started to get better for Ugokwe in recent months. He's found friends he can call on when he's feeling sad but he's still trying to get back on his feet.

Thinking back on his time in jail, Ugokwe says he wouldn't want anyone to go through what he experienced.

"No one deserves that," he said.

"At that time, I needed love. I didn't need to be put in prison and punished for something I don't even understand."


The Sustainable Mechanism for Improving Livelihoods and Household Empowerment (SMILE) project, a consortium of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), ActionAIDS and Westat has come to an end in Nigeria. The project has contributed positively the lives of thousands of vulnerable children and their caregivers through a coordinated multi-sectorial approach in 5 states. A dissemination event was held on Wednesday, November 28 2018 in Abuja, with Gede in attendance. 


There were a host of guests from development partners, federal and state government agencies, patient community and project beneficiaries.

CRS’s Country Representative, Rebecca Hallam and its USAID counterpart in their different remarks, welcomed participants and expressed satisfaction within the outcomes of the project cycle. 

Beneficiaries greased the occasion with testimonies including enrolment into HIV-AIDS treatment and care, households economic strengthening and access to basic education for vulnerable children.

Goodwill messages were received from individuals, partners and government agencies. Gede’s Managing Director, Mr Joseph Odogwu, thanked SMILE  and the USAID  for the partnership that contributed to developing and validating  mental health screening tools to be used among  orphans and vulnerable children  in Nigeria as well as the pilot study for tools utilisation.

The SMILE project may have ended, but the effects will be felt for time to come!