Journey to the North

By Binfa Kelvin Gono

Binfa Kelvin Gono

Binfa Kelvin Gono

"Congratulations guys, we are going to Maiduguri! So Binfa and Yusuf, I hope you are ready.” These were the words of Dr. Cynthia Ticao the Performance and Project Director at Gede Foundation. After months of hard work, careful planning and negotiations, it was finally time to depart for Maiduguri to help identify Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Needs of Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPs). We were very excited about this project because of its potential at meeting and bringing help to displaced persons in Nigeria. 

After intensive training by Dr. Bonnie Kaiser, the day came for our departure. I can remember how emotional we became as staff came down stairs to bid us farewell. Within hours we were at the airport and boarded the plane to Maiduguri. Just like proud soldiers on a rescue mission, but this time around on a mission to represent the integrity and humanitarian ethics of GEDE Foundation in Maiduguri. I promised myself that I was going to enjoy every bit of my journey and my work in Maiduguri. I watched from the skies as I wondered how Maiduguri will look. How are the displaced persons coping? Will our work be a success or failure?  As I pondered on this, the pilot interrupted my thoughts with an announcement. “Please kindly put on your seat belt as we approach Maiduguri and will be due for landing in 15 minutes.” At that point the excitement within me turned into dread; will we be safe? What if something bad happens? As the thoughts began to trouble me I quickly shifted my eyes to the windows and watched the beautiful landscape of Maiduguri. I watched with keen interest and amazement. Within a few minutes, we landed at Maiduguri International Airport. 

The airport was old with a lot of military presence. The weather was uncomfortably hot but the smiles of the people were charming and heart warming. As we left the airport and drove towards the heart of Maiduguri town, I started having a contrasted view about the Maiduguri we see on the news and the Maiduguri I was seeing on ground. The city had beautiful street lights like the ones found in Paris streets. The road sides were beautifully inter locked as if seeing naked sand was a crime. Business activities looked normal just like any other city I have been to in Northern Nigeria. I could not hold back my curiosity as I kept on asking the driver questions upon questions as they run through my mind.

The following day we had series of meetings and trainings with our partner organization (Catholic Relief Services - CRS). By the third day we were due to go on our first side visit to the communities. As we drove off the city, we started seeing visible signs of the insurgency. Armoured tanks by major junctions, beggars littered every where, people were generally looking shabby than usual while thatched huts were all scattered along the road as we journeyed. I enquired about the thatched huts and was told that those were shelters for the displaced persons. How can someone live in that? I protested as if it was their fault. They looked at me with such eyes that seemed to say “you never see anything” connoting you are yet to see worst. By the time we were at the third community my eyes had seen enough of the discomfort and sufferings. 

Oh poor and wretched people, with a rich mother like Nigeria you are living in rags and calling dried grasses home. Young men were seating idle under the shade of trees with nothing productive to do. Elders looked with such curiosity and I guess wondered what we might have brought to support their plight. Children were looking at us like some radiant stars from the skies. Other children queued up under the hot sun as they waited turns to fetch water. I almost broke into tears as a young boy grab my hands to say hi. I quickly knelt to ask him his name, “Mohammed” he said, with a big beautiful smile. I looked into his cute eyes and was about to ask him how he was doing when he asked, “uncle can I say ABCD”? “Why not?” I responded. “A, B, C, D, ……..Z”, he missed some of the letters but did not care as long as I was listening to him. Other children quickly came around to say hi and recite English alphabets. My heart melted with such joy at the motivation of the children to learn. There is hope at last, I confessed within me.

With the site visits over, the team was eager for their work. Our first day at the field was a distressing one. Here we were eye ball to eye ball, feet to feet and hands to hands talking to the IDPs. Their stories were emotionally overwhelming. They lost love ones, properties, animals etc. Men and women broke down with tears as they shared their experiences. One of the participants noted, “we have been assisted with food but nobody has come to ask us these questions you are asking us.” During psychological debriefing of the research team, it was evident that the experience was hard on us all. I remember one of the research assistants asking me a question, “Mr Binfa, how are we supposed to listen to these people and can’t do anything to help.” It was a feeling of helplessness at the magnitude of stress and distress the IDPs pass through every single day for over three years. 

For the 7weeks we spent with the IDPs, we heard horrible stories, emotionally overwhelming stories, stories that can make a person sick for several weeks. How they are coping with these experiences is a miracle (hopefully the outcome of the research will help us better understand this).  However, mentally some of them are breaking down, attributing everything to God and showing signs of helplessness. For how long will they keep holding on, only time can tell! But one thing is certain, they need help and they need the help now. 

Sleepless Nights

Written by Zunzika Okpo

Some time last week, I read an article from the New York Times about how Boko Haram conscripted young girls. How they used these girls to recruit other girls and in turn, used the girls for reproductive and religious purposes. Needless to say, it was a heart wrenching read. I could barely bring myself to imagine what the girls went through and how strong they were. Imagine having a bomb strapped to your waist and instead of blowing it up, you seek for help. It is a scary thing for anyone, especially ones so young to go through. 

The article brought back some memories from the field. I have heard scores of stories. Most of them border on not being able to sleep, hearts pounding at the slightest noise and the ever present fear and dread. Of course there are even stranger stories. Even as most of the people in the IDP camps cannot sleep, there is one man who cannot sleep at night, only at night. His village was attacked at night. His whole family was asleep when they heard screams and people running. The man got up to check and saw the insurgents. Some of them were holding young girls, aged between 10 and 14. He ran to his children’s room and told them to hide under the bed and in the corner so they would not be seen. They did as they were told. The insurgents started pounding on the door. They were brandishing knives and some were sporadically firing their guns. Out of fear, the man opened the door for them. He had guns, knives and cutlasses in his face. He saw as the young girls that were with the insurgents went from room to room. He prayed they would not find his children. His wife was in their room with their youngest - barely a year old. As luck would have it, someone called from the outside and the insurgents left. They had scattered everything in his house but did not take anything or anyone - except for the man. When they took him, they inflicted all kinds of pain on him. They threatened to kill him, his whole family too. They told him they knew about his children and would go back to the village to find them and his wife. 


They did not immediately say what they wanted from him. They did not explain why they beat him and threatened to hack him to bits; they just kept at it. He was tired, he was hungry and he was thirsty. He lost count of days. He recalls that they would stop beating him for a while and just as he was about to give in to sleep or pass out from exhaustion, they would be back. Day and night lost meaning. They then asked him to join them in service. He wondered what would happen if he refused. As he could barely talk, he only nodded. “He won’t be much use,” one of the men said in Hausa. This man was tasked with disposing off the body. 

He was careless thrown in a bush and left to die. He explained how he did not know where he was and how he just stayed there waiting to die. After what seemed like forever, some people came about. They seemed harmless. They poked him and he groaned. Everything was chaotic but they managed to get him to a hospital where they tended to him. He is OK now. The family reunited. The children are safe. Yet the father cannot sleep at night. He stays up every night looking outside. When day breaks, he goes to sleep. As long as the sun is out, he gets some sleep. 

'I like having a diagnosis but everyone can experience poor mental health'

In my 23 years I have been diagnosed with two mental health illnesses.

The first was OCD when I was 14, an anxiety disorder that can cause the individual to experience intrusive thoughts and a need to carry out rituals as a result.

 Before my diagnoses, I felt isolated and ashamed of who I was

The second was depression, following a break up and living 200 miles away from home at university in the South West of the UK.

Feeling alone without a diagnosis

Before my diagnoses, I felt isolated and ashamed of who I was. I felt like I must have been the only person on the planet who was experiencing what I was going through.

And even then, I knew something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on what that was. A diagnosis showed me that what was happening to me had a name, it was recognised as something that could be treated.

In turn, this made me more open to treatment including medication. I saw it in the same way as I saw a physical illness: it needed treating to go away or to keep it at bay at least. This insight has been invaluable.

The positives of having a diagnosis

Having a diagnosis has equipped me with the tools to explain myself to other people.

I would say I have always been more anxious, more alert and on edge than others I know. For such a big period of my life I had no idea why that was which made me angry that I wasn’t the same as other people.

Now I know that I have a medical reason for my behaviour and it’s a reason I can use to help other people understand.

If I am having a particularly bad day, I can tell people that it’s because of my OCD.

There are webpages dedicated to the anxiety disorder that people can read and I feel as though it describes who I am perfectly. When I find it difficult to explain myself, I now have the back up of all that information out there that I never knew existed before.

Feeling ‘different’

Having a label has always felt important to me; I’ve always seen the benefit of having a diagnosis and a label that explains why I am the way I am but recently I have started to question: is this always a positive thing?

If I was to look at having a diagnosis from the flip side, it has only confirmed my suspicions that I am not a “normal” human being. Although having the label of “OCD” and “depression” has allowed me to normalise things for myself in terms of my experiences, I also feel that a diagnosis has made me feel an irregular, alien part of society. My behaviour isn’t what is classed as “normal” and so needs a name branded to it.

Linked to this point, I feel as though diagnoses can sometimes add to that taboo of there being two categories of people in life: the mentally well and the mentally unwell. People like me who have a diagnosis are lumped into the latter. But I would argue that these groups don’t exist. Sure, there are people with and without diagnoses but that doesn’t mean that you are either one or the other.

Everyone can experience poor mental health

Everyone is on a continuum.

It’s possible that everyone can experience poor mental health at some point in their lives

Some days we might wake up and feel terrible and can’t put our finger on why or we might experience a life event that in turn causes poor mental health. It’s possible that everyone can experience poor mental health at some point in their lives. It’s exactly the same as not always being physically well.

The idea that these two groups exists also feeds into the idea that those with a diagnosis are ill and need to get better. When we have been diagnosed, the very thing we want to achieve is “recovery.” But I would argue that my OCD will never go away and its makes up such a big part of who I am. Why do I need to constantly fight against that and strive to be what society deems as “normal”? Sure, I probably am a more anxious individual than the next person but don’t we need this mix of people in the world?

Maybe sometimes a diagnosis can just be reflecting a different way of thinking and being, not something toxic that needs to be tackled and eradicated.

I have always been taught that my way of thinking isn’t normal and that it needs changing which has only lead to me hating this part of myself

I now feel proud to admit this and scream it from the rooftops: my OCD IS part of me; it makes me who I am. I have always been taught that my way of thinking isn’t normal and that it needs changing which has only lead to me hating this part of myself.

But I don’t want to hate that anymore.

Instead, I believe that I can live alongside my OCD, listen to it, try to understand it, accept it and embrace it as part of my identity. My brain works differently to yours which means that I experience and to respond to stress in my own unique, individualised way.

And you know what? I’m perfectly ok with that. How boring would life be if we were all exactly the same?!

Article from Mental Health Today

Five Years Later...

By Zunzika Okpo

In the past week, Gede held more Mental Health Camps in the IDP camps. Our regular readers will know how our camps usually go but this time was a little different.

We encountered problems as soon as we got to the chief’s palace in one of the camps. It is not usually locked but on this day, it was. Users were already gathered outside the chief’s palace waiting for us. Our Psychiatrist for the day looked around and said, “well, we are here, we might as well do something.” So we gathered benches, plastic chairs and set to work. We set up our stations under various trees. We had work to do. 

We would usually see the same type of people with similar challenges. They cannot sleep, they are terrified, they keep having nightmares, they are worried about family left back in the North-East, etc. One woman, however, stood out. She was old, very old and did not have anywhere to sit. She was also very quiet. When she walked over to do her vitals, I could tell she was very frail and she also walked with a cane. When she went over to the doctor’s bench, her daughter in-law narrated her story. She had just very recently escaped from Boko Haram’s captivity. She had been held for over 5 years. The insurgents came to her village one day, burned everything, killed people and took the women and children. 

Whilst in their captivity, the old lady was put to work. She recalls making kunu (pap - a local Hausa drink) and taking it to the farmers working in the field. She was stopped by the insurgents who demanded to know what she was carrying. She informed them that she was simply taking the farmers something to drink. They seized the drink from her and took sips. It did not go down well as they claimed it was sour and she was trying to poison them. For this offence, the 79 year old woman was given 80 lashes. She continued living with the insurgents until one night during the Ramadan period it rained heavily. She claimed that when there were thunderstorms or rain, the insurgents stayed indoors. Therefore, she, and three others took off in the middle of the night, in heavy downpour and started their descent (they were held on a mountain). During the climb down, the old lady fell and twisted her ankle. To this day, she walks with a cain. Luckily for the four escapees, they made it to where the army was and identified themselves. They were then put in a camp where someone that knew her son was. The person got in contact with the son and told him his mother was still alive. After 5 years, the family assumed the worst - that she had perished at the hands of the insurgents. After all, she was 77 when they took her. 

The last thing she said was, “they don’t take any possessions, they don't want anything. They will burn and destroy everything in their path. They just want your life.”

The trauma that the IDPs have been exposed to is incomprehensible to someone that has not been through it. You would have to live through it to even begin to understand how they are all walking and laughing. It is a testament to people’s resilience. Hopefully through this and similar psycho-social interventions, healing and rehabilitation can begin.

For more on our activities, do come back to the blog!


GF's World Mental Health Day Coverage - Courtesy of Leadership Newspaper

Onukogu Kanayochuqu Jubal was a part of the World Mental Health Day seminar organised by non-governmental organisation Gede Foundation, in consonance with the Coalition for Global Health Awareness, on October 10, 2017 and writes on the modern struggle for peace of mind in the work place.

Very few know that hiring an employee, paying them and giving them emoluments is not all that is require of an employer. You need to provide a work-friendly environment and ensure they are free from the strangle-hold of mental encumbrances, so that the work does not suffer.

In the light of this, those who owe their employees, abuse them verbally or fail to create a conducive working environment must be doing them a great disservice and upsetting the balance of their mental cart, all to the detriment of their job and general productivity.

Every October 10 is World Mental Health Day and, in order to commemorate this year’s, non-governmental foundation, Gede Foundation, brought together the members of the Coalition for Global Health Awareness to talk about the issue, to a great extent.

The gesture, according to the foundation’s management, is part of efforts it is making to join forces in the campaign for mental health.

The issue this year was, simply, “Mental Health in the Work Place.”

According to a 2017 study on “Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates” by the World Health Organisation, Nigeria has 7 079 815 cases of depressive disorders (3.9 per cent of her population), while another 4 894 557 suffer from anxiety disorders (2.7 per cent of her population).

Of the first group, 1 291 694 (7 per cent of that number) have live with it for years, while 451 762 (2.7 per cent) of the second group have live with it for years.

Clearly, there is little succour for sufferers; not when the National Primary Health Care Delivery Agency (NPHCDA) is ill-equipped to deal with the situation.

It was time to talk about mental health challenges in work places, away from the street, and a clinical psychologist with the Karu General Hospital, Abuja, Samuel Jinadu, was on hand to dissect the issue.

In his opinion, mental challenges which can be attributed to the work-place are real, but, sadly, hardly confronted.

“If you look at our work places carefully, you will notice that organisations neither have plans for nor do they support mental health issues that arise from the work place; they would prefer to be in denial and continue to dodge questions relating to this.

“Work place stress is real and cannot be swept under the carpet. Ask directors, managers, heads of human resources departments, construction workers, senior, junior and senior management staff or members of a company’s board. Stress is real and it is damaging more minds and psyches than we will ever know. Sadly, some people do not even know that they have it. They think they are just being natural or so. But they are not,” said Jinadu.

The psychologist further highlighted that, rather that indict employers of labour, the aim of the day remained highlighting a need for changes in the way the nation’s workplaces deal with issues such as stress, anxiety and mental illness, seeing as 1 in 4 of Nigerians will struggle with a mental health issue at some point.

“People are still too scared to speak to their employers about their concerns, for fear of being labelled or viewed as weak or incapable.”

Jinadu touched on a few signs as pointers to watch out for.

“If we do not watch out for one another, we will suffer, the work will suffer and, ultimately, the company or organisation will shut down and everyone loses.

“If you notice some of the symptoms in yourself or a colleague, something should be done as soon as possible.

“If you find that work or aspects of your work bring on or make these symptoms worse, speak to your line manager, trade union representative or your HR department. It may be that some action taken at an early stage will ease the stress and reduce or stop the symptoms.

“Normally, the symptoms are in three-fold. The emotional symptoms come in form of negative or depressive feeling, disappointment with oneself, increased emotional reactions which could be aggressive or otherwise, loneliness, withdrawn, loss of motivation commitment and confidence, mood swings (not behavioural), amongst others.

“The mental symptoms are confusion, indecision, loss of concentration and poor memory.

“The other signs is a noticeable change in normal behaviour, eating habits, increased smoking, drinking or drug taking ‘to cope’, mood swings effecting one’s behaviour, changes in sleep patterns, twitchy, nervous behaviour, being erratic by arriving late too early or leaving too early and too late.”

Jinadu advice employers and colleague at the work place to watch out for these signs, as they may be indicative of other conditions.

“If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, please, seek advice from a health practitioner. In the case of a colleague, try to convince them to see their doctor,” he further advised.

While Jinadu avise for closer observation of self and others, the founder of the Youth Reformation & Awareness Centre, Margaret Udoh, called for an up-scaling of advocacy to policy makers, law makers, schools, families and, even, the judiciary.

“We should go back to our homes and know the strengths and weaknesses of our children, as far as their studies and emotional intelligence are concerned.

“That way, we can guide them to the right career path, to avoid stressing their young minds.

“Also, in schools, we should have proper career counsellors and bring our parents up to speed on the things they should know about this,” Udoh echoed.

Ameh Zion, who works with the Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative, thinks that the key lies in legislation.

“The things which are wrong and have to be made right, as far as mental health is concerned, are enshrined in the Mental Health Bill. Until it is passed, a lot will be shrouded in secrecy and, even when it is passed, we would need some vibrant, active advocacy and education to help Nigerians deal with it and not stigmatise sufferers,” he opined.

Emmanuel Okafor of the Centre for Constructive Leadership & Development International, called for more foundational effort, in order for the campaign to gain more traction.

“We should take our advocacy beyond government, have health clubs in foundation schools, tertiary institutions and in our homes. Even the Legislature passes the bill, there would be a lot to be done. The best way would be to begin from the roots, the schools, so that when the bill si passed, we can move right up. We are the only ones who can understand the language of the sufferers, because they are here amongst us. Until we begin to realise that this thing has to be tackled, our children will continue to guess what is wrong with them, stigmatise other children who have mental health challenges and, even when they become adults, not know how to go about the issues at stake.”

But Jinadu insisted that stress in the work-place can be handled, if a few pointers are practically taken into consideration.

“First off, identify the signs through self-awareness, observation of muscles and breathing exercises. Also, reducing stress through self-care (exercises, socialising an connecting with others, taking breaks or some time away and making healthy food choices can help a great deal.

“However, there a few things which people easily take to when they are highly stressed. Do not take pills or drugs to relax, do not take to smoking or drinking, because they can be easily abused. Practice safe sleeping habits, look for humour and enjoy light moments, attend socio-cultural events and create a balance schedule.

“Above all, know when to say ‘no’ to your superiors. You could get yourself into a health quandary by always trying to prove your commitment; people die and the work remain.”

But is stress that bad? While many would answer with a resounding “yes” right away, the performance director, research & advocacy of Gede Foundation, Cynthia Ticao, Ph.D, does not share that opinion.

“Sometimes, we should stop to think about how boring a life without stress would be. Stress is alright, because, sometimes, it brings out the best in us, but you need to know when it is taking a toll on your health or family.”

She said the workshop is one of the ways the foundation is working to create nation-wide awareness for mental health issues, by getting a mental health kit for women, children and the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North East.

She assured that a lot is being done by the foundation, through working partnerships with professionals and organisations to do more and “take real help to the people who need them.”

The search for peace of mind in these days has driven many into the arms of clinical professional, many of whom have found themselves victims of the issues they are trying to help, as well.

According to Dr Jennifer Udekwu-Braimah of Intensive Rescue Foundation International, it is proof that care givers are not immune or super people.

“Care givers are the frailest and most vulnerable. When they see the kind of trauma which those who have mental health challenges go through, they could be affected adversely.

“As scary as the situation is, though, we have a way of relaxing after marathon schedules.

“We sleep at the slightest break, watch interesting shows, form strong bonds with families and colleagues and protect ourselves. We really are the most vulnerable, technically speaking and have to do these little things to protect and watch out for our own well-being,” she said.

Whatever way the wind blows, it is clear that many have taken to seeing clinical psychologists and all other types of mental health professional, in order to save their minds and bodies. What is yet unknown is how early we can all come together to agree on the issue and how much damage it can do to a nation, one mind at a mind.

After all, acknowledging a problem is the first step to solving it, they say.

The Dark Side of Resilience

Article culled from Harvard Business Review

By Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Derek Lusk

Resilience, defined as the psychological capacity to adapt to stressful circumstances and to bounce back from adverse events, is a highly sought-after personality trait in the modern workplace. As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant argue in their recent book, we can think of resilience as a sort of muscle that contracts during good times and expands during bad times.


In that sense, the best way to develop resilience is through hardship, which various philosophers have pointed out through the years: Seneca noted that “difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body” and Nietzsche famously stated “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” In a similar vein, the United States Marine Corps uses the “pain is just weakness leaving the body” mantra as part of their hardcore training program.

But could too much resilience be a bad thing, just like too much muscle mass can be a bad thing — i.e., putting a strain on the heart? Large-scale scientific studies suggest that even adaptive competencies become maladaptive if taken to the extreme. As Rob Kaiser’s research on leadership versatility indicates, overused strengths become weaknesses. In line, it is easy to conceive of situations in which individuals could be too resilient for their own sake.

For example, extreme resilience could drive people to become overly persistent with unattainable goals. Although we tend to celebrate individuals who aim high or dream big, it is usually more effective to adjust one’s goals to more achievable levels, which means giving up on others. Indeed, scientific reviews show that most people waste an enormous amount of time persisting with unrealistic goals, a phenomenon called the “false hope syndrome.” Even when past behaviors clearly suggest that goals are unlikely to be attained, overconfidence and an unfounded degree of optimism can lead to people wasting energy on pointless tasks.



Along the same line, too much resilience could make people overly tolerant of adversity. At work, this can translate into putting up with boring or demoralizing jobs — and particularly bad bosses — for longer than needed. In America, 75% of employees consider their direct line manager the worst part of their job, and 65% would take a pay cut if they could replace their boss with someone else. Yet there is no indication that people actually act on these attitudes, with job tenure remaining stable over the years despite ubiquitous access to career opportunities and the rise of passive recruitment introduced by the digital revolution. Whereas in the realm of dating, technology has made it easier for people to meet someone and begin a new relationship, in the world of work people seemed resigned to their bleak state of affairs. Perhaps if they were less resilient, they would be more likely to improve their job circumstances, as many individuals do when they decide to ditch traditional employment to work for themselves. However, people are much more willing to put up with a bad job (and boss) than a bad relationship.

In addition, too much resilience can get in the way of leadership effectiveness and, by extension, team and organizational effectiveness. In a recent study, Adrian Furnham and colleagues showed that there are dramatic differences in people’s ability to adapt to stressful jobs and workplace environments. In the face of seemingly hopeless circumstances, some people resemble a superhero cartoon character that runs through a brick wall: unemotional, fearless, and hyper-phlegmatic. To protect against psychological harm, they deploy quite aggressive coping mechanisms that artificially inflate their egos. Meanwhile, others have a set of underlying propensities that make them act a little differently when under stress and pressure. They become emotionally volatile and scared of rejection. And consequently, they move away from groups, put up walls to avoid being criticized, and openly admit faults as a way to guard against public shaming.

Even though the resilient superhero is usually perceived as better, there is a hidden dark side to it: it comes with the exact same traits that inhibit self-awareness and, in turn, the ability to maintain a realistic self-concept, which is pivotal for developing one’s career potential and leadership talent. For instance, multiple studies suggest that bold leaders are unaware of their limitations and overestimate their leadership capabilities and current performance, which leads to not being able to adjust one’s interpersonal approach to fit the context. They are, in effect, rigidly and delusionally resilient and closed off to information that could be imperative in fixing — or at least improving — behavioral weaknesses. In short, when resilience is driven by self-enhancement, success comes at a high price: denial.

Along with blinding leaders to improvement opportunities and detaching them from reality, leadership pipelines are corroded with resilient leaders who were nominated as high-potentials but have no genuine talent for leadership. To explain this phenomenon, sociobiologists David Sloan Wilson and E.O. Wilson argue that within any group of people — whether a work team or presidential candidates — the person who wins, and is therefore named the group’s leader, is generally very resilient or “gritty.”

However, there is something more important going on in human affairs than internal politics, and competition within groups is less important than between groups — such as Apple going head to head with Microsoft on technological innovations, Coca-Cola trying to outmaneuver Pepsi’s marketing campaigns, or, in evolutionary terms, how our ancestors fought for territory against rival teams 10,000 years ago. As Robert Hogan notes, to get ahead of other groups, individuals must be able to get along with each other within their own group in order to form a team. This always requires leadership, but the right leaders must be chosen. When it comes to deciding which leaders are going to rally the troops in the long-term, the most psychologically resilient individuals have a miscellany of characteristics that come much closer to political savvy and an authoritarian leadership style than those needed to influence a team to work in harmony and focus its attention on outperforming rivals. In other words, choosing resilient leaders is not enough: they must also have integrity and care more about the welfare of their teams than their own personal success.

In sum, there is no doubt that resilience is a useful and highly adaptive trait, especially in the face of traumatic events. However, when taken too far, it may focus individuals on impossible goals and make them unnecessarily tolerant of unpleasant or counterproductive circumstances. This reminds us of Voltaire’s Candide, the sarcastic masterpiece that exposes the absurd consequences of extreme optimism: “I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our more stupid melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?”

Finally, while it may be reassuring for teams, organizations, and countries to select leaders on the basis of their resilience — who doesn’t want to be protected by a tough and strong leader? — such leaders are not necessarily good for the group, much like bacteria or parasites are much more problematic when they are more resistant.

Gede in the News!!!

A non-governmental organisation, Gede Foundation, has urged the Federal Government to promote mental health in work places across the country.

The NGO made the call at a symposium it organized to mark the 2017 World Mental Health Day with the theme: “Mental Health in the Workplace”.

Speaking at the event, the Performance Director: Resource Mobilisation and Partnership Management of the NGO, Mr Godwin Etim said the symposium was to let people know how mental health can be promoted in work places across Nigeria.

He said the objective was to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilise efforts in support of mental health.

He added that if the bill on mental health which is currently with the national assembly is passed into law, Nigerian workers would be protected from abuse and stigmatization they go through as a result of mental illnesses.

“The passage of the bill would help secure large portion of Nigerians affected with issue of mental health in work places and create room for people to care and support for people affected rather than stigmatizing them,” he said.

A clinical psychologist at Karu General Hospital, Mr Samuel Jinadu who said a large proportion of Nigerians are having mental issues also added that the Health Management Organisations do not have mental health or affective disorder as part of their coverage.

He enjoined organisations to designed their work places in a way that is supportive to people who has mental health-related issues.

Jinadu further added that stress, which is one of the causes of mental health, is not a bad thing but how it is been perceived adding that we cannot be immune from stress.

“Today, we look at mental health in work environment and one thing that is very prominent is that stress is emanating because of the way the work space is being designed and that is affecting productivity,” he noted.

He said: “Employers should make sure that mental health issue is no more a stigmatising issue so that people do not get demoralized, dismissed, demoted because they have mental health issue rather they get support.” 

Article culled from the Daily Trust Newspaper

10/10/2017 - World Mental Health Day

Gede Foundation, with Basicneeds UK celebrated this year's World Mental Health Camp themed "Mental Health in the Workplace." 

Gede was joined by other organisations and Mr. Samuel Jinadu gave a presentation on "Stress and Managing Stress in the Workplace." As we spend most of our adult time at work, it is important for employers and employees to find a balance and maintain their mental health. 

Below are some pictures from the 10/10/17 as well as the Mental Health Camp held in Waru on the 11th of October 2017.

Please come back to the blog for more!


My ”Foothingz” Enterprise


I am Asiya Eso Ita, third year student with the department of Linguistics and Communication Studies, University of Calabar, Calabar. I am 22 years old. I hail from Obutong community in Calabar Municipal council. I am a beneficiary of the Lafarge Africa Plc – Gede Foundation educational support programme. 

I was enrolled into the programme in 2015 in my 100 level. I had participated in all the educational programmes organised by Gede Foundation to improve and enhance the grant that is awarded for tuition, books and other academic needs by Lafarge Africa Plc. I have also played a part in the drug-free campaign to community’s secondary schools to enlighten young students about the damages caused by drug use and its impact on social, mental and physical health of the user. 

In my first year in the programme a life building skills workshop was organised by Gede Foundation to improve capacity of beneficiaries and introduce us to basic entrepreneurial skill with an intent to encourage savings and economic activities that could aid us raise extra income for school.  After the 2 day training a got around with my cousin who have had a formal vocational training and who is currently making shoes. I have graduated as an apprentice and I am making my own shoes now. 

I have done a few sandals of my own and sold within the campus. I choose shoe making because I have passion for footwear and it is very lucrative business. Although, at this initial stage is demanding as materials are purchased in bits. In a year’s time when I am able to invest more money, I will buy materials in large amount to serve more production and reduce the cost of transportation. 

I hope to take other courses on shoe making after my graduation to improve the skill I have acquired now and improve. I also will register my shoe company soon and have my own brand. I want to name it ‘Foothingz’.

Written by

Asiya Eso Ita

300 level student

Linguistics and Communication Studies

University of Calabar, Calabar


Living in Constant Fear - Mental Health Camp in Waru IDP

By Zunzika Okpo

Fatima* is 19. She lives in Waru IDP community. Even though she is far from Borno State and far from the insurgency, she lives in constant fear. Any small noise scares her to the point that her heart starts to palpitate and often she feels as though she is about to pass out. She has been in the IDP camp for over 3 years now and she has small children. Sleep? She has not gotten a good night’s sleep in years. She may sleep for two or four hours at the most. Her children, innocent as they are, sleep through the night. However, she noted that sometimes she is happy when they awake at night because that gives her some comfort. 

Four years ago, Fati, as she was fondly called, lived in a big house with both her parents and her siblings. They were a happy family and did not want for anything. They had three score meals plus extra, clothes on their backs and a more than decent roof over their heads. They ate and prayed together. The girls helped their mother in the kitchen while the boys learned about the farming with their father. Their lives were relatively peaceful even though they were aware of the insurgency in their state. Every so often they would hear gunshots but little did they know that it would get to them. One day, their father did not return home. On that same day, Boko Haram insurgents raided their compound. Fati, her sisters and brothers made a run for it. Their mother was behind them, trying to beg for her life when she was beheaded right in front of her children. The children made a run for it, in different directions. The older ones tried to carry the smaller ones but some were shot in the process. While she was running, Fati jumped over someone she recognised. It was her father; dead and left there for people to see. With tears and fear, she kept on running. She ran until she found others who had been displaced and managed to escape from their villages. She did not see any of her brothers or sisters. 

For a long time she could hardly keep food down. She did not even want to eat. She had witnessed her mother die in front of her. She had seen her dead father. She had no idea where her other family members were. For all she knew, she was alone in the world. Often, she wondered why she had been spared, if she would be better off dead. 

Once she got to Abuja, she found someone who wanted to marry her. She jumped at the idea because she had no one else. Her husband left for Lagos after their third child was born. She feels alone again, save for her children. Her fear is always with her. When she came for the Mental Health Camp held on September 11th 2017, she felt a sense of progress for once. She wants to get better. She wants to forget what happened to her. She is not alone in this anymore. This was the sentiment expressed at the virgin Mental Health Camp held in Waru IDP community. Most of the occupants there have seen so much trauma that they are afraid to sleep. With the BasicNeeds team going in there, support groups will be formed, livelihoods will be given, psychotherapy will be given and they can begin to heal.

As always, do come back to the blog for more updates on our work with IDPs both in Abuja as well as in Borno State.