4 Nigerian Men Talk About Their Struggles With Depression

September 10, 2020

As men, we are under constant and intense pressure to put up a strong front. When we feel overwhelmed, our first instinct is to cover it up or pretend it’s not there. We put up acts to show that we’re strong and this isn’t helped by society telling us at every front to “man up” while we’re crumbling on the inside.

Men suffering from depression are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Worsened by the fact that men are often in denial of their feelings, depression is often overlooked and ignored in men. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. To raise awareness on the dangers of unacknowledged and untreated depression, we talked to 4 men about their struggles with depression and how they’ve found hope.

Bolu, 22

Last year, I tried to kill myself. I felt empty, without purpose or ambition. I was convinced I was an unloved waste of space and money and that life wasn’t worth it. I suffered from incessant mood swings, anger issues, erratic sleeping patterns, memory loss and didn’t take baths unless I had to go out. After my suicide attempt, I tried to contact a mental awareness organisation who didn’t reply to me until my third contact. They sent a bunch of hospital options, most of which were pretty far from me.

I called one of the options in Lekki and I was told I’d need N100,000 to register, which I definitely couldn’t afford. So I called the Yaba Psychiatric hospital. I was told I only needed to pay N4,000 to register there. When I got there, I met with an off-duty doctor who told me they only attended to serious cases there and referred me to the Oshodi annex of the hospital.

At the Oshodi Annex, I recounted my experience at  Yaba to the doctor who told me that the Yaba doctor had lied to me, for reasons unknown. She said I should have been attended to. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the doctor, so we couldn’t follow-up.

I registered as an outpatient at the Oshodi annex and was placed on a regimen of drugs and therapy in January. After three months and two changes in my medication and dosage, I started to notice changes. Some of the meds had side effects like making me unable to orgasm.

On the whole, I’m feeling much better than I used to. I haven’t had a suicidal thought in several months. I still lack drive and ambition but I’d say I’m a work in progress.

Abdulazeez, 22

I’ve never had a good record of mental health. My first two suicide attempts were in secondary school. It was a really rough period for me: I struggled internally with my sexuality, masturbation, religion and morality. I tried and failed to kill myself by jumping off a ladder.

I didn’t know how to deal with my personality and hyperactive mind, so I began to self-mutilate (cut myself). The pain was my coping mechanism for getting through all the mental turmoil. 

In uni, the mental torture continued because I didn’t address the underlying issues. Relationships became toxic and I was devastated because I felt like I was a social anathema. I tried to kill myself at different times by slashing my wrists and overdosing on drugs but I lost heart. I still have a lot of scars on my wrists from all the attempts.

I haven’t gotten help yet because I can’t afford it so I spend a shit ton of time on self-help and psychology videos on YouTube. I feel much better now and I feel less inclined to kill myself. I still need a professional psychologist to help me unearth all the underlying issues. It’ll be a part of my budget when I start working.

I don’t feel like going to most Nigerian government hospitals; I’m a bi-curious polyamorous baddie with daddy issues and Nigerian therapists are basically like pastors, with all their religious talks.

Daniel, 25

My depression began by being disillusioned by everything around me after I experienced sexual abuse when I was 10. Because I couldn’t tell anyone, I ended up withdrawing into a shell, which is my default mode now. People constantly called me a sadist because I never smiled or engaged with anyone, which made me retreat further into myself.

By the time I was in JSS3, I already made plans on how I’d kill myself, if I decided to do so. I became really interested in mass shootings like Columbine and Virginia Tech but I found a support group that silenced the voice. By the time I entered uni, the voice resurfaced and became so bad that I started actively avoiding being alone because I wasn’t sure what I’d do. It was also in uni that I completely gave up on therapy because they all has religious leanings. It annoyed me further because the person who abused me in the first place was a religious figure.

Because I wanted to be far from my family and be able to commit suicide without feeling guilty, I opted to go to the Abuja campus of the Nigerian Law School. Fortunately, I found a support group and I didn’t go through with it.

I have tried to commit suicide twice but both times, I wimped out and puked out the pills. Now, I’m on medication that helps me. While my mind still flirts with thoughts of suicide, I somehow haven’t descended to the depths I had reached before.

Lanre, 29

I occasionally experience waves of depression and strong suicide ideation. The depressive episodes come in waves, so I have on and off days. I’ve not gone through with actually killing myself because I want to live forever. 

 I used to be on medication but I stopped because they were pricey. Also, I started exploring non-medical approaches to dealing with my feelings. Now, I have support groups. I don’t feel like I’m all the way there, but I’m definitely not as bad as I used to be.

Read: 6 Nigerian Woman Share Their Mental Health Journey

Man Like – A series about men, for men, by men. Every Sunday by 12PM.

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