Gede Goes to Borno

By Samira Koko

Gede Foundation, in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is conducting a project with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), in Borno State. 

Prior to their departure, the team had a training in identifying mental health and psycho-social support among IDPs in Maiduguri. The 5-day training with Bonnie Kaiser also included basics in research. Topics discussed included introduction to mental health, qualitative & quantitative research, ethics & mental health stigma, psychosocial first aid and involved a practice interview with actual IDPs in Abuja. 

Pictured below, are our Research Assistants right before they left to Borno State on the 13th of September, 2017. 

Binfa and Yusuf left for Borno State and Samira is working from Abuja. 

Binfa and Yusuf left for Borno State and Samira is working from Abuja. 

Please return to the blog for more details!

Sitawa Wafula Visits Gede

Sitawa Wafula's visit to Abuja

Good afternoon Beautiful people,
In today's post, which is the second part of my chronicles from Keffi and Abuja - Read Part 1 on things to do in Keffi and Abuja - I will share the mental health service providers I met with in Abuja.

1. On Sunday afternoon, I facilitated a support group meeting, hosted by She Writes Woman  - a forum that brings women going through different types of mental health issues together to speak and support each other through monthly sessions in Abuja and Lagos. Since support group meetings are private closed door affairs, I will not divulge more.


2. On Monday morning, we went for a hospital visit, the Behavioural Medicine Unit in Abuja - the main state referral unit in Abuja - where we met Samuel, a psychologist at the hospital. He was very instrumental in helping us understand the mental health structure in Nigeria. The Behavioural Medicine Unit does both in and out patient services and can host up to 40 people at a time - space is definitely an issue, but hey if we did more awareness and preventative mental health, we will not need to worry about space. Samuel informed us that the most common admissions are on substance abuse and substance induced mental health issues, bipolar, clinical depression and schizophrenia.

He also shared some success stories and I loved how his face lit up when he took us through various recovery journeys that he had been part of or seen at the unit. I loved that the unit works with social workers to help with the transition process from hospital to home and has a trial release program where one is allowed to go home over the weekend before being officially discharged from the hospital. Samuel informed us that stigma even among staff is an issue and told us of an interesting initiative by WHO where staff got free lunch if they ate with those who had been admitted at the hospital. 

3. After the hospital visit, we went to Gede Foundation  which one of the largest mental health NGOs in Nigeria. Godwin, the partnership manager, received us and took us through a brief history of the foundation. Gede started with work on HIV where they saw the burden of mental health issues in people living with HIV, this is what formed the foundation of their work in the mental health space. They have various projects going on including implementation of the Basicneeds model to various  communities including IDPs - I have worked with the Kenyan arm of Basicneeds and visited with the Ghanaian and been in conversations with the US arm so I am very familiar with this model and it is exciting to see Gede adopting it. It basically works around inclusion of community in addressing mental health issues as well as looking at livelihood and self advocacy of those going with a mental health diagnosis. 


Gede Foundation has also been involved in research and policy work - where they have successfully gotten mental health care on the HIV guidelines, they also host a mental health CSO coalition that brings together 54 mental health organisations in Nigeria among many other exciting things. 

When a Sibling Attempts Suicide

Over the weekend, I got a text saying my older brother had been talking about taking his own life. He had threatened to do this so many times we brushed it aside and even laughed about it. Little did we know that he was serious.

The next text I got said he had climbed onto the power lines (NEPA lines) with the hopes of electrocuting himself. Somehow he was talked down and then disappeared for about 2 weeks. 

A little backstory. My brother is not only the smartest in the family but the most talented. He is a self taught artist; he can draw, paint, sculpt, mould, sing, write, you name it. However, at some point in his life, he fell into drugs. When the pocket money he got could no longer sustain his habit, he resorted to stealing. He was/is the type of relative that when he comes around, you hide all the valuables. I always protected and defended him because he was my smart and handsome big brother - until he stole my new shoes. Even then, though, I gave excuses for him. I recall one time we were woken up at 4am by policemen holding my brother who had our TV with him. He had told the policemen that he was on his way to fix the TV - at 4am. Looking back, they were really nice policemen because they brought him to the house to ask if this was true and if he truly stayed there. As we slept, he left all the doors open, took the TV and he went out with the hopes of selling it. We were saved that day. Another time he stole something very valuable from my mother. She insisted he take us to where he sold it. He took us around the neighbourhood until we got to a deserted house and then he took off. This was about 10pm on a dark, cloudy, starless night. As no cars were passing, my mother and I had to walk back hoping we did not run into hoodlums.

Another thing that my brother is, is a charmer. Once he was done with all his shenanigans, he would return home and our mother would be strict with him but he would play her tune (and the rest of ours). For 2/3 weeks he would be the perfect brother/son and just when you lower your guard, he would strike. I recall my mother crying because he stole her gold watch and sold it for peanuts - just to get a fix. She tried having him locked up, kicked him out of the house but he always charmed his way back. One time, he took rat poison and we all got scared and tried to ‘understand’ his situation as best as we could. 


There was always a darkness about him. Other girls would describe him as ‘dark and brooding’ but maybe that was the beginning of depression and we missed it. He did write several suicide notes as well as other dark literature. He found pleasure in inflicting pain on my younger brother but never me. He attempted suicide more than once but he got a scolding instead of a listening ear and treatment. Now he is older, married with children. Sometimes he calms down, best husband and father ever and then he goes on a bender. He’s been missing for two weeks. His phones are off. The family knows he will eventually turn up but what if he does not? 

As Dr. Stella Iwuagwu once said, empathy costs no dime. Perhaps if we had listened, paid more attention, gotten treatment for him, anything really, we might know where he is. He might have gotten the treatment he so desperately deserves. Even worse, what if he succeeds? How does the family recover? How do we pick up the pieces? 

Written by Susan

Nigeria now includes MENTAL HEALTH in HIV/AIDS care and support

Original article was published on the MentalHealth Worldwide website. 

From our member in Nigeria, Gede Foundation, we are very excited to announce that
for the first time Nigeria has included mental health into routine HIV/AIDS care and support in the National HIV AIDS Strategic Framework 2017-2021(Gede Co-Chaired the Technical Working Group which looked at the key issues).

Gede has been published in BMC Public Health in a peer reviewed article on the prevalence of common mental disorders in a large sample of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. Access article from link below:


Congrats to John Minto, Gede Foundation and to all working so hard in Nigeria!

Contact information for further information:
John Minto
Managing Director
Gede Foundation
Abuja, Nigeria

Entering New Communities

She remembers running, her heart pounding. She vaguely remembers falling and then drifting in and out of consciousness. When she came to, her worst fears came to life. Her brother had been killed by the insurgents. She could still hear the gunshots. It got so bad that every time she heard something loud, she would hear her heart pounding, her palms would get shaky, she would suddenly be out of breath and she would be very terrified. This had continued even after leaving the North-East of Nigeria.

Another woman described how she saw people falling as they run away from their homes, amid a torrent of gunfire. As they were running, they jumped over dead bodies. Once they got to a relatively safe location, she could not stop shaking and could not hold on to anything. Others described scenes where children died as they could not keep up with the running or were not fed for days due to lack of food. Sometimes there was food but no way to cook it. 

These are just a few experiences shared by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the new communities that the BasicNeeds team is entering. After wrapping up from Mpape and Mararaba communities, the team is moving to Guruku (Mararaba) and Waru (Apo) communities. August 15th and 16th marked community consultations in the two communities. The consultation was aimed at giving the stakeholders a general overview of the project as well as getting an idea of what their expectations from Gede are. The attendants were introduced to the BN model and how it can be of help to them. 

Both communities expressed a need for empowerment as they have been away from their homes for a long time and having something to do will keep their minds busy. Furthermore, they acknowledged that they need assistance as some of their members have been adversely affected by the insurgency in the north. The trauma has led some of them to substance abuse, while others usually seem lost in thought, talk to themselves, wander around aimlessly and often cannot get a goodnight’s sleep. 

The community consultation gave both Gede and the new stakeholders an idea of what to expect going forward. Please check out website regularly for updates from the field. 

'I am a survivor of suicide'

Charlotte Underwood with her father

Charlotte Underwood with her father

I am a survivor of suicide, in both the senses.

I have survived my own suicide attempt and survived my father’s suicide.

Ignoring mental illness and letting stigma control what support and treatment people are offered will only result in more fatalities, like my father’s. 

That’s why campaigns like The Samaritan’s Big Listen are so important, listening to someone can save a life.

Losing my dad to suicide opened my eyes to the modern world, how there is a huge stigma attached to mental illness and a huge lack of support.

It hurts me to know that we live in the 21st Century and yet some still pretend that depression, anxiety and other mental illness aren’t real.

I know first-hand how real they are.

I have been struggling with depression and mental illness my whole life, it’s almost as if it is genetic. I am not the only person in my family with it.

I have been told I am a hypochondriac and that my physical illnesses are in my head. I’m scared for the day that I do get seriously ill and avoid the doctor, knowing that I won’t be listened to.

Going through all of this myself is the reason why I completely understand my father’s suicide.

I have never been mad at him and I know that he was trying so hard. For 16 years he tried to get better but he didn’t get the help he needed.

He once told me that I was the only person that understood him, I was an 18 year old girl and that made me so sad. Something needs to change.

Mental illness is just as serious and life changing as any other chronic illness, it can affect your working life, relationships and generally your quality of life, something I know all too well.

By speaking up and talking about mental illness, it gives others in similar situations a support network, somewhere to go when they need someone to understand them, it can make a huge difference, which is why I wrote my book ‘After Suicide’.

I wanted people to be able to understand grief and have a friend who they could relate to, though I feel my book can be so helpful for people who want to understand suicide more.

If I can give someone advice, I would say be patient with yourself or a person with mental illness, stick around and be ready to hold them if they need it but respect their space and time they need alone.

If someone is suicidal I would recommend just sitting with them, be gentle and help them find the words, together you can work through the problems and hopefully save their life in doing so.

If someone is grieving it is so important to understand that each individual grieves differently in their own time, do not make them feel guilty for their actions and tell them that they should be over it by now, it is the worst thing you can ever do.

Someone who is grieving needs constant reassurance and support.

Losing someone you love is the worst feeling in the world but losing someone to suicide can also add confusion and hurt as for some it can be unexpected or sudden.  

Ask someone how they are today and be ready to listen, it can make a world of difference.

    My Little Start-Up

    My name is Emmanuel Ekpo Okon and I am a second year student at the Cross River State University of Technology in the Department of Electrical/Electronic engineering. I hail from Akwa Ikot Efffanga community, Akpabouyo LGA in Cross River State.  My community is one of 10 communities hosting the Lafarge Africa Plc, one of Nigeria's largest cement manufacturers and suppliers of high quality cement.

    As part of the Company’s corporate social responsibility to it host communities, a few students from my community and other communities are selected annually to benefit from an educational support programme of the company. This support programme covers tuition, books and other levies which leaves very little for personal use. Although I was lucky to be nominated and selected to enjoy the support, I had thought on how the little I saved from the financial support could be used to bring more money to take care of other financial issues at school. 

    I have been in the programme for 2 years now. In the first year, an entrepreneurial and life building skills workshop was organised by Gede Foundation – the Consultant managing the education support programme for Lafarge. From the little I grasped in the 2day workshop, I thought outside my field of study and identified a problem within my institution which I could proffer solution. 

    At the end of every semester graduating students and students in dire need of quick money, go from one hostel to another with an intent to dispose or sell off their used laptops, fridges, electronics, personal effects and also to advertise their services such as event managing, catering, salon services and so on. I saw this as an opportunity to come up with an advertising platform within my institution. I knew for a campus such as mine, the best platform would be an application that can be accessed on an android, laptops, java phones and any devices with internet connection, but I have no skill in computer programming, so I shared the idea with a colleague in the computer science Department. From the little I saved from my financial support from Lafarge was born. is an online advertising platform where students within my campus can place advertisement for their goods and services. It has a unique interface that enables a user to create an account, upload up to 12 pictures of 2.5MB limit of each picture. It also enables a use write about the product and can also chat with me or my partner on the platform. uses zara class theme written in php and hosted on whogo host server. was launched on May 26 2017 and it is accessible with android, laptop, java and other internet devices. is not yet an application, it is a website which my partner and Iare still working on in the hopes of developing it further to an app that is downloadable. 

    This is just a start up for me but with formal training in computer programming and graphics, I will be able to birth more ideas to create wealth within my sphere, and also be a role model to young students from my local community.

    Written byEmmanuel Ekpo Okon

    200 level student

    Electrical/Electronic Engineering


    Farewell & Certificate Presentation to Community Based Volunteers

    When the BasicNeeds project started in April 2016, 10 community based volunteers were trained. Along the line however, some dropped out, others found jobs and unfortunately one passed away. At the end of the project, only 5 volunteers remained. These were Mrs. Christie Asanaenyi, Shem Mathias Adze, Maryam Bello, Samuel Offiong and Abari Etsu. 

    At the end of the project, only 5 volunteers were awarded with certificates for their immense contribution to the project. It is because of their effort that the project was able to reach out to over 500 users, get treatment for 177, train over 100 and financially empower 43. 

    Below are some pictures and words from the volunteers;

    Thank you to Kizito and Gede Foundation for locating me when this opportunity to help others came about. I will cherish the moments we worked as a family
    — Mrs. Christie Asanaenyi
    I am grateful for the capacity building I got as I went through a lot of trainings which helped me to reach out to more people and help accordingly.
    — Mr. Samuel Offiong

    More pictures from the farewell event

    The Foundation would like to thank all the CBVs for their efforts during the project. Special mention to Elisha Shaibu, who passed away before the project ended. May his soul continue to rest in peace.

    "Gede Foundation is genuine and wants to help the people. They have not asked for money from community members and have delivered on what they promised so far. From this project, I am learning that there are so many mental disorders and people really need help." - Elisha

    "Gede Foundation is genuine and wants to help the people. They have not asked for money from community members and have delivered on what they promised so far. From this project, I am learning that there are so many mental disorders and people really need help." - Elisha

    Gede Attends Inaugural Conference by the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists

    On 13th July 2017, the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) held its inaugural conference at Valencia Hotel themed ‘persistent poor implementation of the health sector budget: the role of he media’. 

    The conference kicked off with a brief introduction of participants and sponsors. There was also a panel which included the Honourable Minister of Health - Professor Isaac Adewole, Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba - the president of the Community Health & Research Initiative, Dr. Luther King Fashanu - a representative of Mrs. Bukola Saraki the Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation, Dr. Mustapha Mohammed Jibrin - the Commissioner of Health Niger State and other notable people. 

    Professor Adewole encouraged the media to report on the happenings in the country concerning health. He noted that while things may not be as bad as people may think, Nigeria is nowhere near where the government needs it to be. He further encouraged the media to be ‘watch dogs,’ to question the government where necessary and to bring awareness. Prof. Adewole also mentioned that most of the resources that are allocated to health in Nigeria are donor funded and while that is all well and good, Nigeria needs to be able to fund some of it and not wholly depend on outside donors. He ended by thanking everyone present, unveiled the ANHEJ logo and left soon after. 

    When the minister left, the commissioner of health in Niger State, Dr. Jibrin spoke about the state of equipment in hospitals, most of which are privately owned. He said most of them are obsolete and some people working in the labs are not qualified which brings standard of healthcare to a new low. He acquiesced to what had already been noted that a lot needs to be done but things are moving in a more positive direction at the state level. He urged all journalists to be cautious, truthful and willing to report about health, including mental health.

    Another conference to further discuss the role of the media in the health sector will be held in December 2017. Please follow ANHEJ on Twitter for more updates.