HeadlinePREVAILING ECONOMIC HARDSHIP: More Nigerians Becoming Mentally Unstable

PREVAILING ECONOMIC HARDSHIP: More Nigerians Becoming Mentally Unstable

  • Skyrocketing Cost of Living Tipping People Over the Edge
  • Strange, Weird Behaviours, Tendencies on the Rise
  • Over 40m Nigerians Depressed, Mentally Ill – WHO
  • Implement National Mental Health Act Now – Experts

October 15, (THEWILL) – The data is staggering. Of 200 million plus Nigerians, 22 per cent are chronically depressed, according to the World Health Organisation in January 2022. That means 40,000,000 plus Nigerians as at the beginning of last year were mentally ill. By October of the same year, that figure stood at 60 million, according to the President of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN), Taiwo Obindo.

Obindo, who is also the chairman of the Faculty of Psychiatry at West African College of Physicians, Nigeria Chapter, said, “Mental healthcare is in a sorry state given that we have more than 60 million Nigerians suffering from various mental illnesses and the fact that only about 10 percent of them were able to access appropriate care.”


The figures for 2023 by relevant institutions are yet to be made public, but given that “economic crisis and a high level of insecurity can be regarded as the major triggers for the recent surge in the number of depression in the country,” it is safe to say that the numbers would be uncomforting.

On October 10, 2023, the world marked World Mental Health Day. On that day, WHO said, among others; “Good mental health is vital to our overall health and well-being. Yet one in eight people globally are living with mental health conditions, which can impact their physical health, their well-being, how they connect with others, and their livelihoods. Mental health conditions are also affecting an increasing number of adolescents and young people.”

The WHO could have spoken with Nigeria in mind where the situation is dire.

In 2022, when the above mentioned figures were released, the main drivers of the economy, first, petrol was priced at N148 to N178 per litre and second, the Naira and the dollar exchange rate was N426 and N720. In 2023, both items had hit the roof. With President Bola Tinubu’s announcement of fuel subsidy removal, petrol now sells for between N632.17 and N700 per litre, while the Naira/dollar rate stands at N764 and N1,050 at the parallel market.

Correspondingly, the cost of living has skyrocketed as virtually every sector, from education to goods and services, have increased costs amid government’s patchy palliative programmes.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, captured the economic mood of the country following the removal of fuel subsidy and unification of exchange rates recently. It said the removal of subsidy on petrol and forex unification negatively impacted the growth of businesses in the first half of 2023.

President of the LCCI, Michael Olawale-Cole, said the first half-year economic review of the country by the LCCI showed the economy was plagued by many factors.

Olawale-Cole, who was represented by his deputy, Gabriel Idahosa, said, “Business conditions and the operating environment in the first half of the year were largely difficult due to rising interest rates, inflationary pressures, foreign exchange volatility and the liberalisation of the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.”

Depression or mental health is a medical condition that predisposes people to be sad, anxious, hopeless and helpless, which often stops them from living a normal life.

A university don who handles issues of depression, Professor Charles Ogbulogo, said, “The challenge of mental health has become a major challenge in Nigeria, particularly among the Gen Z (members of the generation of people born between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s who are seen as confident users of new technology.).

Professor Ogbulogo, who is the Vice Chancellor of Maduka University in Enugu, told THEWILL on Friday that the psycho-social condition in the country has made “delayed gratification among the gen z impossible. They want everything now so that they will be considered successful and that is also part of societal orientation. We are in a crisis.”


Alarmingly, 75 percent of Nigeria’s population is under age 25, which is 151 million out of 217, 079, 601, according to “Worldometer,” meaning that unless remedial actions are taken to create an enabling environment that supports even development, the youth may continue to exhibit symptoms of depression as it is currently happening in the country.

A leadership and stress management consultant, Adekunle Olusanya, told THEWILL in an interview that depression has overtaken cancer, with children being more prone to depression than adults.

According to him, nutritional deficiency is one of the predisposing factors of mental illness.

“When people do not eat well, have a deficiency of nutrients that will affect the secretion of good hormones in the body, this can make them unhappy. It can lead to depression. Hence, psycho-social and biological factors can lead to depression.

“Social Status also can be a factor. Inability to pay your bills, get money to buy what you want may lead to cognitive distortion and then negative thinking, which would affect the way you feel, which in turn affects the way you act and your performance,” he said.

Explaining further, Olusayan said teenagers are more prone to depression because of the prevalence of a sense of immediate gratification among them and the high incidence of substance abuse.

Propelled by the demand of societal pressures to succeed anyhow, “the quest for immediate gratification can lead to feelings of hopelessness, fear, anger, anxiety and helplessness because of unrealistic expectations.”

“When these negative emotions set in, the gut brain barrier is affected,” said Olusanya, “emotions are also linked to the brain.”

Although Olusanya, author of a bestseller titled God’s Answer to Depression, stated that genetic and seasonal factors, among others, also play a role in depression, he submitted that abusive relationships induced by lack and want can cause depression for adults and children growing up under such relationships.

He said, “Mother and father fighting in the home where swear words and negative affirmations are repeatedly used, they affect the neural pathway of the brain leading to loss of concentration. That is a recipe for depression.”

Both Ogbulogo and Olusanya agree that the high incidence of substance abuse among Nigerian youths, craze for “money ritual,” even the ugly prevalence of male organ disappearance, and increasing suicide bids are related cases of mental health.


Research supports Olusanya’s statement that immediate gratification among youths accounts for cognitive distortion, which accounts for bad behavior.

The 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index Survey, co-sponsored by the Federal Government and the World Bank but released by the National Bureau of Statistics, showed that 63 percent of Nigerians, which account for 133 million citizens, are multi-dimensionally poor due to a lack of access to health, education, living standards, employment, and security.

Many online fraudsters, known as Yahoo Boys, and other deviant youths belong in the category of mentally ill who believe the performance of money ritual, rather than work or being creative, can make them become rich. In the pursuit of their quest, they often get involved in murder as it happened with a fraudster from Edo State, simply identified only as Osas, who allegedly killed his girlfriend, Elohor Oniorosa, for ritual purposes or a 36-year-old herbalist, Taiwo Ajalorun, who reportedly confessed to the shocking killing of a 26-year-old mother of two and two others in the Ijebu Ode area of Ogun State. The state alone recorded at least 15 cases of ritual killings between January 2022 and 2023, the highest number of reported cases of murder for “money ritual purposes.”

Lamenting the development, Police Public Relations officer in Ogun State, Superintendent of Police, Omolola Odutola, stated that, “what could make 17, 18 and 19 year-old boys to get involved in such despicable acts involving the killing of an innocent girl for money ritual purpose? The problem must be from the home.”

Investigation showed that the trio who murdered one girl, Suliat, for the money making ritual, were from poor homes and lacked formal education.

What is true of engaging in ritual for money purposes is also true of substance abuse. According to the Chairman of the National Drug Law Agency, NDLEA, Gen Buba Marwa (retd), “Substance abuse is common among youths between the ages of 18 and 35 years, and it cuts across those who dwell in both the urban and rural areas.”

Speaking at the 2023 Press Week Lecture/Symposium, organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Lagos Chapel, recently, the drug czar, who was represented by Mrs Rita Okeke, NDLEA Deputy Director, said, some youths engage in drug abuse as a result of low self-esteem, ignorance, imaginary pressure and anxiety.

Also, in their desperation to make money by all means, mentally ill Nigerians, mostly youth, have resurrected an old practice that disappeared in the 1980s: allegedly making the male organ disappear. Although many cases that have been reported across the country show that claims of organ disappearance are basically superstitious, thereby forcing the police to issue statements denouncing the practice, which has led to mob killings of alleged magicians, the practice is still ongoing, leading to fatal consequences and more stress and depression in society.

Last week in Kogi State, a motorcyclist suspected to have caused the disappearance of his victim’s male sex organ was mobbed to death, despite repeated statements and warning by the Commissioner of Police, Bethrand Onuoha, dispelling the belief.

In fact, the Nigerian Police Command in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja revealed on Friday that about 62 cases of alleged disappearance of the male sex organ have been reported across the territory.

The FCT Commissioner of Police, Haruna Garba, made the development known while addressing journalists at the command’s headquarters on Friday.

Garba further revealed that of the 62 cases reported to the command, 51 suspects have been arrested and charged to court for misinformation and causing breach of peace in the FCT.

According to the police, the 51 suspects wrongly accused others of causing their organs to disappear, leading to mob actions against the victims (the accused).

The CP, however, called on residents of Abuja to always cooperate with security operatives in a bid to ensure that the city is free of crimes.

He said, “Fifty-one suspects were charged to court for giving false information and inciting public disturbance. To this end, I want to reiterate my commitment and willingness to always work with you (residents of FCT) to defeat crime in all its forms in the Federal Capital Territory.”

A pastor of ELAG-Ministry, Julius Usigbe, told THEWILL that the many Nigerians who believe that they can make money, which is a means of exchange without work, which is energy spent constructively, are merely imitating their leaders in many spheres of life whose sources of wealth are questionable.

“It is sad but that is the reality. Until we begin to pose the question of character, competence and capacity, we may have to live with the ugly incidence of so-called money ritual. But believe when I say it, there is nothing like that. It is all superstition fuelled by ignorance that you can become rich without work,” he said.

The increasing number of suicide cases in the country has been traced to depression, too.

For the incidence of suicide, WHO in 2019 listed Nigeria among the low and middle-income countries that accounted for over 77 percent of suicide incidents across the globe.

According to WHO, Nigeria has the highest rate of suicide in Africa and it is the sixth in the world with over 17, 000 lives lost to suicide.

The Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN) in Nigeria revealed that one in every five suicide cases in the country is aged between 13 and 19 years. It said that over 50 percent of crisis calls received via its hotlines are from those aged between 13 and 29 years, and 27.8 percent of them were students.


Because of mental ill-health, inducing psycho-social factors like poverty, ethnic and political division and acrimony, social cohesion in the country has taken a bad hit.

A National Social Cohesion Survey, NSCS, for 2022, African Polling Institute with support from Ford Foundation, computed the National Social Cohesion Index, NSCI, at 39.6 per cent, a score that remains below the average of 50 per cent. Indeed, the score was a 4.6 per cent decline from the 2021 index of 44.2 per cent. What this means is that the state of cohesion in the country weakened over the past year and given the acrimony that preceded and followed the 2023 general election, the score may take time to improve.

According to the Institute, the concept of social cohesion refers to the willingness of the citizens of a country to cooperate and work together towards ensuring the survival and prosperity of the country. Attitudes and perceptions of citizens are captured, using some indicators to measure social cohesion in Nigeria. These indicators are trust, social justice, participation and patriotism, impunity, corruption, coping strategies, self-worth and future expectations.

Overall, the results of the National Social Cohesion Survey 2022 and National Social Cohesion Index, computed with a score of 36 per cent, demonstrates a weakening of the state of social cohesion in the country because of the increasing polarisation along economic, political and religious fault lines.


Professor Ogbolugo called for a general overhaul of the society. The leaders and elders have to work for a reorientation of society where money is not a major challenge for people or else they are likely to get it by all means. Family support has to be there for people. Improper planning with the coming of urbanisation has affected the sense of community that used to keep people together. Something must be done about that.

Olusanya suggests a long term and a short term solution. For the long term, the school curriculum from primary to tertiary level has to be reviewed in such a way that the dignity of the person rather than the certification must be the focus.

“Why label children who failed, for instance, to mean they have failed in life when, in fact, failure at a point in time should be viewed as a challenge and opportunity to discover new ways to do things right,” he said, “In the short term, proper diagnosis must be key in nursing the patient back to life.”

He called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, implement to the letter the contents of the Mental Health Bill signed into law by ex-President Muhammadu Buhari on 5 January 2023. The Mental Health Bill 2021 replaces the Lunacy Act of 1958.


The Act sets out not only to ensure a better quality of mental healthcare services and promote recovery in Nigeria, but to protect the rights of persons who have mental health conditions. The establishment of a department of mental health within the Federal Ministry of Health is to see that mental health policies are proposed and implemented.

On a positive note, the Act defines and protects the rights of Nigerians with mental health conditions. Section 12 of the Act states that any person needing mental health services should not be subjected to any form of discrimination based on their condition.

They have the right to access all healthcare services, the right to protection from physical and mental abuse or exploitation, the right to humane and dignified treatment, the right to expression and opinion, and the right to receive reasonable care from their family, legal representatives, care-givers and the government. It also provides for the right to a quality standard of treatment, the right to appoint legal representatives, the right to participate in treatment planning, the right to privacy and dignity, the right to access information, and the right to confidentiality.

About the Author

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Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

Amos Esele, THEWILLhttps://thewillnews.com
Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

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