For the past 6 years, both of you have enjoyed a blissful marriage. On that memorable day, your husband returned home after work, he seemed unusually drawn back and quiet. He went upstairs to freshen up but not before long, there was an animal in your home. He had noticed that you used his phone charger without turning off the socket afterward; this never use to be an issue but that day was different. He yelled at you and before you could step out of the kitchen, he was right behind you and gave you the beating of your life; your kids watched the whole drama from their room as they begged him to stop.
This was the first time he beat you. You sat in tears trying to figure out what had come over him, could it be that he was starting to become just like his late father? Why did he let the kids watch all of that? As a typical African, you might just conclude that ‘your village people’ have finally found their way into your home, right? Maybe not.
At the August Edition of the Conversation Cafe yesterday, the MANI team hosted over 50 youths at West Grille Restaurant, Ibadan where we talked about our mental health with an emphasis on a mental condition called ‘ACE’ Adverse Childhood Experiences. In this post, I will make you have a feel of what my time at the Conversation Cafe felt like.
For starters, we were made to understand that mental health is the ability to withstand the stress of everyday life and the absence of mental illness. No matter how great you think you are, mental illness is not selective of its host which gives everyone a reason to ensure their mind and body are in perfect condition. It’s one thing to think we are fine, and another to actually be fine. The big question is, are we giving enough attention to our mind and body?
At this point, we played an interesting game were mental conditions were written in small pieces of paper then torn into two parts. Everyone was made to pick a piece and locate the other person with the second half of their paper. It was more like finding who completes you. This was an opportunity to mingle, we were expected to know each other’s names before checking what was written in their paper. A guy named Philip and I emerged as the second set of winners, our word was, ‘Post-traumatic Stress Disorder’.
It only got more interesting when we were asked to move into groups based on the number given to us. There were about 6 groups but I can tell that my group (group 1) was the most interactive, thanks to my group members (John Bosco, Uche, Grace, Mofolu, Ore, Dara, June) and our anchor (Tope); it felt like we had known each other for years. There was so much explosive laughter even as we talked about the seriousness and severity of ACE.
From the conversation, I got to learn the following:
• ACE means Adverse Childhood Experiences.
• Adverse Childhood Experiences are traumatic experiences that describe: neglect, domestic violence, dysfunctional family, drug and substance misuse, violence between parents and other forms of violence or abuse which a child experiences as they grow up. It describes a frequent source of stress faced by children as they mature before age 18.
• Its effect on kids could be long term and reoccur even as adults, leading to negative outcomes such as poor mental health and risky health conditions, low life potential, early death, depression, anxiety, suicide, unwanted pregnancy, cancer, diabetes, drug and substance abuse, and other diseases. Generally, it reduces one’s stability, effectiveness, and ability to function well if not properly addressed or prevented.
• For ACE to be prevented, we must help children create more positive experiences as they grow up; this way their negative experiences are reduced and the risk of ACE is minimized.
Issues that put children and families at risk needs to be addressed. Parents should make conscious efforts to display supportive behaviors as traumatic events could disrupt the early development of the brain which later affects the mental health and wellness of an individual. We went further to share real-life experiences and filled out copies of questionnaire to evaluate our lives and childhood to find out if we have tendencies of having the effects of ACE.
In the end, we established the fact that ‘your village people’ are not always the cause of mental illness. However, we can improve our general health by:
• Taking some time to do the things we enjoy doing.
• Being active and productively engaged in activities.
• Cultivating good habits.
• Falling in love with ourselves and others.
We were advised not to be the lion children have to escape from every day of their lives. Instead, we should be more open and determined to give our children the best memories they can hold on to. There must be a balance between discipline and abuse; when you need to discipline a child, do well to let them understand the reason they are being punished.
Thanks to everyone who showed up and made the event awesome. Oore, Aramide, Ore, June and others, it was nice networking with you guys. I shouldn’t forget to talk about the food; it was great.
Just in case you want to know what MANI is, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) is a youth-centric non-profit organization where young people come together to create awareness and fight mental illness stigma without any form of discrimination. It’s founded by Dr. Ugo Victor a Nigerian and was officially launched on June 11, 2016, with the help and support of his team of doctors and others. Visit their website www.mentallyaware.org to know more.