'Mental health doesn’t mean loss of sanity’ - The Gallant News


Sunday, 29 August 2021

'Mental health doesn’t mean loss of sanity’

 'Mental health doesn’t mean loss of sanity’


Emmanuella Owobu, founder, Bright Future Community Healthcare Services, a behavioural health clinic based in Baltimore, USA, in this interview with Chinyere Okoroafor, talks about the need to pay more attention to mental health issues. The licensed clinical psychologist, counsellor and adjunct professor at Coppin State University, Maryland, USA, also spoke about her mental health show, ‘The Talk with Emmanuella.’

You read Mass Communications at Auchi Polytechnic; how did you end up a mental health practitioner?

I have over 10 years experience in my practice. I actually realised that I would love to be a mental health practitioner because of the flair I’ve had to impact lives since I was a kid. Although my first dream was to become the first female pilot or astronaut, I recently figured that it was just the urge to impact the world in general. Having graduated from Auchi Polytechnic with HND in Mass Communication; I practised as a broadcaster in the USA.

However, not being able to secure that dream job with big international TV stations made me explore other options, which at that time included working with people with behavioural and mental health challenges in the healthcare field. After my exposure in working with these people, I decided to go back to school for my masters in Mental Health. While in school, internship was a required part of the process, and this experience further exposed me to working in other areas of mental health, including working with people struggling with substance use disorder. At that point, my decision was sealed to remain in that line. My experience working was filled with challenges at first, coming from our culture; but once I settled into it, the fulfilment that comes with being part of someone’s growth and successes in life did it for me.

Mental health, to some people, means total loss of sanity. How true is this?

That is what most people assume; but no, mental health does not mean a person has lost sanity. Mental health itself describes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act and also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Our mental health is very important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

What are the various mental health issues?

Mental health issues include anxiety disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, depression, bipolar disorder, other mood disorders, eating disorder, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder. There are also Psychotic disorders like schizophrenia and many more.

Each of these must have been triggered by an event or occurrence, which in turn affects our way of reasoning either positively or negatively. So, when your mind is at peace and you do not feel any kind of mental health malfunction or disturbance, then you can say you are in a state of mental wellness.

It’s a fact that Nigerians don’t place much importance on mental health; how can this be changed?

Like I mentioned earlier, mental health is not insanity. Many Nigerians cannot come out and talk about their mental health because they are afraid people will think they are mentally retarded; awareness is always a good thing. Even in the United States, not enough talk is done in some communities about mental health.

I have clients that seek help with me and do not want family or friends to know. However, I believe with more education through awareness, there will definitely be a change in the positive direction.

It is paramount that much attention be given to our state of mental health, because things are already difficult as it is. Mental health should not be an additional concern for an individual in an already hard economy. Also, being exposed to traumatic events such as kidnapping, killings, rape, banditry and so on. If the needed attention is not given to mental health, Nigeria as a country is going to be in real trouble.

Who needs a Mental Health Diagnostician?

It is normal to be affected by the happenings in your surroundings. However, when that sadness or worry-feeling, nervousness, anxiety, depression, fear/shock, anger etc doesn’t go away and it begins to cause emotional struggles that are interfering with your ability to engage in healthy lifestyle habits such as eating, sleeping, exercising or your ability to function at work, at school, at home, or in relationships; then you need to visit a diagnostician.

Most advisably, a person should not wait until their mental state affects his/her life negatively before seeking help.

Tell us about ‘The Talk with Emmanuella’. What is the motivation behind the show?

All through my journey in the United States as a psychotherapist, my heart was filled with coming home to give back. I realised through my journey that it was time to become more aware and work on a process to make things better. Culturally, mental health has its stigmatisation in Nigeria, but that has in no way reduced the growing need for mental health services. ‘The Talk’ is here to help people with resources they need to manage these symptoms and also provide an avenue for safe disclosure to encourage treatment.

How can people take care of their mental health?

You can take care of your mental health by simply finding what works for you; what makes you happy? What stabilises you when you’re angry, what excites you?

It could be so many different things such as, connecting with others, being kind to yourself, keeping active maybe through exercising, eating well, going out, dancing, singing, going for a walk, yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, etc and so on.

When your body feels good, it can really boost your mood. Try out different ways of coping with stress.

Find something that works for you; that is very important in maintaining your mental wellness.

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