Mental Health: A Need For Awareness

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Mental health problems are on meteoric rise across the globe. I read an interesting article which identified mental health disorders as the fifth leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Interestingly, Nigeria, along with China, North Korea and Japan were the four countries mentioned to have low burden of death and disease from mental disorders.

This could be due to the fact that the average Nigerian mind races to madness (psychosis) probably inflicted on a person by haters from his or her village, when mental health is mentioned. Many fail to realise that alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, sleep issues, emotions such as anxiety and depression, levels of stress, self-harming and suicide are all linked to mental health.

As a result, very few Nigerians pay attention to their mental health. Judging with what is happening right now, one can predict that mental health issues of Nigerians, especially the youths will skyrocket in the next five to ten years. And this should be seen as a major public health concern.

Before you start critiquing this; I am yet to research on this so I have no raw data to back my claims hence this is just an opinion, observation or assertion.

Nigerian youths are faced with numerous problems in our country today. From joblessness (unemployment) through relationship/marriage problems to alcohol and drug abuse etc. And these can do serious damage to one’s mental health.

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First, parents put a lot of pressure on their kids to study and become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Many may lack the abilities and capabilities required to reach the educational goals set by the parents and in the end, become stressed, anxious and depressed or may resort to drug abuse/alcoholism to take the pain away.

Then, if one scales through these hurdles and graduates, one enthusiastically applies for numerous jobs as many believe their job defines them and earns them respect. If unsuccessful after a long search, one may lose confidence and self-esteem.

Unemployment can take a huge toll on a fresh graduate’s pysche. The stages of unemployment are initial shock, depression and finally adjustment. Depression may cause them to isolate themselves from friends and family.

Next, the never-ending pressure on a young Nigerian lady, from family and society, to marry and have a family. Although many claim unfazed, being single may increase the risk of developing mental health problems in adulthood.

Nevertheless, ending a relationship/marriage through separation, divorce or death may also cause an increased risk of mental health disorders. Relationships are hard-work and often drains one’s emotional energy. People may be happier whilst married or in relationship but the effects on mental health once separated by death or divorce may be far worse than being single.

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It is never easy when a relationship/marriage ends. The breakup can trigger negative emotions, such as sadness, hate, disappointment and depression, which one may never recover from. The more break-ups one has, the more his/her mental health  progressively deteriorates.

Emergence of social media hasn’t helped either; it has increased comparison, cyber-bullying, restlessness, glamorization of sex, drugs and alcohol use and crowd mentality amongst the youths to appear cool. People put more pressure on themselves when they see achievements of others thereby elevating their stress levels, anxiety and depression. If they feel they are falling behind, they may make matters worse by turning to drugs or alcohol.

Mental health issues can prevent one from living his/her dream, starting a family or becoming useful to his nation. And this should be treated as a serious health scare. Mental health awareness should be made to safeguard emotional wellbeing of Nigerian youths.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

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Passive Smoking

Smokers always find it offensive when you tell them not to smoke around you. Choosing to smoke and destroying your own health is one thing but passive smoking, also known as Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) or Second-hand Smoke (SHS), damages the health of those around you. The first global study into the effects of passive smoking has estimated it causes 600,000 deaths every year.

A non-smoker is subjected to both the “side stream” smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette and the “mainstream” smoke that has been inhaled and then is exhaled into their environment by the smoker. Most of the smoke that builds up in a room containing a smoker is of the more harmful “side stream” type. It is not too much of a conceptual leap to understand that the smoke from cigarettes, which is so bad for the smoker, is also damaging to everyone else.

Tobacco smoke contains cancer-causing carcinogenic agents. Tobacco smoke also contains carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, which inhibits the transportation of oxygen to the body’s vital organs via the blood. The smoke emitted from the tip of a cigarette has about double the concentration of nicotine and tar as the smoke being directly inhaled by the smoker. It also contains about three times the amount of the carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene, five times the level of carbon monoxide and about 50 times the amount of ammonia. Add to these the other chemicals in the smoke like arsenic, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, and hydrogen cyanide and you have a very unappetizing toxic gas cocktail. Remember that the passive smoker receives all of this and gets none of the enjoyment that you get out of smoking in return. Many of the potentially toxic gasses in the smoke are present in higher concentrations in the “side stream” smoke than in the “mainstream” smoke.

In tests, tobacco specific carcinogens have been found in samples of blood or urine provided by non-smokers who have been exposed to passive smoking. The great Gani Fawehinmi SAN died in 2009 after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. Prior to his death, he maintained he doesn’t smoke and was astonished when the doctors in UK told him he had lung cancer.

Any person exposed to passive smoking may experience short-term symptoms such as a headache, a cough, wheezing, an eye irritation, a sore throat, nausea or dizziness. Adults with asthma may also experience a significant decline in lung function when exposed to second-hand smoke. Under these conditions it can take as little as half an hour for an individual’s coronary blood flow to become reduced.

It was estimated that prolonged exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, such as in the home, increases the risk of lung cancer by approximately 20 to 25%. Even if you do not accept the accuracy of these percentages, it is well established that you have an increased chance of developing lung cancer through passive smoking if you are a non-smoker but live with someone who smokes. The chances of suffering from ischaemic heart disease are greater for those exposed to passive smoking compared to those who are not. Studies have shown that the risk of experiencing a heart attack is believed to be almost doubled by regular exposure to second-hand smoke.

Some of the most serious damage inflicted by passive smoking is done to children during their formative years. As you would expect, a child’s bronchial tubes are smaller and their immune systems are less developed making them more susceptible to the harmful effects of passive smoking. Due to the fact that their airways are smaller, children breathe faster than adults and, consequently, they actually breathe in comparatively more of the harmful chemicals in the smoke, based on their body weight, than adults do.Young children, by necessity, spend a lot of time at home and maternal smoking is one of the major sources of passive smoking because of the child’s close proximity to their parents during early childhood.

Exposure to tobacco smoke can double the chances of your child requiring hospitalisation for illnesses like bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia that affect the lower respiratory tract, especially during the first year of life. They are also more likely to suffer from ear infections (glue ear), tonsillitis, and asthma. Passive smoking is known to be one of the main contributing factors in the development of childhood asthma. It can exacerbate existing asthma, increasing both the frequency of the attack and its severity. Second-hand tobacco smoke may damage a child’s olfactory function so that they have difficulty differentiating certain smells. There is also the chance that passive smoking may have a negative effect on a child’s cognitive abilities, impairing their ability to read or use reasoning skills.

Just as a woman should not smoke during pregnancy, she should not be exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. There are links between parental smoking and the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or “cot death”. It has been estimated that the infants of mothers who smoke are put at almost five times the risk of dying from “cot death” when compared to the infants of mothers who do not smoke. Passive smoking is also a recognised factor in lowering the birth weight of babies.

Not only can passive smoking harm your foetus but it can also reduce the chances of you getting pregnant in the first place. Female fertility can suffer because of passive smoking, making it harder to conceive a child.

To continue to smoke and put the health of your family and loved-ones at risk would seem, on the face of it, to be a rather selfish act. When you take into account the damage that smoking is doing to your own body, then it seems more like insanity.
Think of how traumatic it would be if a member of your family became ill or died because of your smoking habit. Now consider the fact that they would feel exactly the same way if smoking ended your life prematurely or made you seriously ill. You may find yourself asking “Why do I still smoke?”