These were the chilling words of a 26 year old man. He was obviously very smart, very eloquent and it was clear he wanted his life back on track.
Jackson* was barely in senior secondary school when he started to dabble in alcohol and marijuana smoking. He insisted it was not peer pressure, it was not because everyone else was doing it. He insisted that he was a very strong willed person but once he started smoking marijuana, he could not stop. This continued for many years. It has now been well over 5 years. He has not been able to kick the ‘habit’. “To be honest with you,” he said, his voice quaking and his hands trembling a little, “today is the only day I have not smoked and it’s because I knew you guys were coming here”. He was referring to Gede Foundation and this was the very first Mental Health Camp the Foundation had held.
Asked on why he still smokes, he said it was part of him now, it was like food. He cannot do without it. If he feels tense or is lacking confidence, he simply smokes marijuana and he is better. While he knows it is not good for him and wants to stop, he does not have the will power to desist from it even though he earlier stated he has a strong will power. He is surrounded by friends that do the same activities and so even when he tries to stop, he finds himself back in the ‘ditch’. At this point, his friend chipped in and said that Jackson had even been to a rehabilitation centre but once he came out, he relapsed. Relationships with his family are strained. The community has labeled him a bad influence and no one really gives him a chance anymore. Sometimes, the friend said, he talks to himself and is very irritable when others interrupt his conversations.
He did something that was inspiring though. He asked for help. He said, “I need a ladder to help me out of this ditch I am in”. According to our Psychiatrist, Jackson not only needs support from his family, he also needs psychotherapy. It will not be a short journey, it will be long, sometimes hard but it is one he is willing to undergo.
This story brings to mind the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day; Dignity in Mental Health - Psychology & Mental Health First Aid for All. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “psychological first aid covers both psychological and social support. Just like general health care never consists of physical first aid alone, similarly no mental health care system should consist of psychological first aid alone. Indeed, the investment in psychological first aid is part of a longer-term effort to ensure that anyone in acute distress due to a crisis is able to receive basic support, and that those who need more than psychological first aid will receive additional advanced support from health, mental health and social services.”
The work that Gede has started with BasicNeeds in Nigeria will surely empower users as well as those in a position to help (carers) to recognise, acknowledge and appreciate mental health. Will you be doing your part October 10th this year?
Jackson* - Name has been changed to protect the user’s identity.
By Zunzika Thole-Okpo