What may help is being honest with others about our personal struggles, talking about our problems to people who would listen with an open mind, offer support and not be judgmental. In other words, look for a psychotherapist who may schedule follow up sessions and/or refer you to a psychiatrist for medication evaluation.


The recent suicide by the renowned CNN TV personality Anthony Bourdain has again brought to the fore that economic/social status is not an indication of how well one is living. What else could he be lacking? He was rich, famous, had a child and also the opportunity of traveling the world at some organisation’s expense. Those are the outward indicators we use in judging success and happiness. Right? Wrong! Again, why should he or what could have led him into committing suicide? In a lay man’s language: Why did he have to kill himself?

Oprah, the TV personality, and a billionaire to boot; Lady Gaga, the world-wide renowned singer; Halley Berry, the popular Hollywood actress; Michael Phelps, the all-time Olympic gold medalist; and J.K. Rowling, the Harry Porter series author, are all on record as having been diagnosed with and treated for depression at some point or the other. Why would or what could make such successful people feel depressed? The World Health Organisation’s director general came out recently that someone in the world dies through suicide every forty seconds. Yes, it is that bad! To those who commit suicide, it is apparent that they believe that that is the best way out, with the thought that (maybe) after-life could be better.

Not very much is heard in the Nigerian environment about people committing suicide based on their states of mind. This is not because there are no depressed people around or that the illness is non-existent in the country. It is the level or lack of reportage of it and the unfortunate fact that we still associate certain stigmas to mental illness in Nigeria.

As a psychotherapist, I always tell my patients that we all have stuff in our lives that we are dealing with, the only difference being that we are dealing with different things and at different levels. The biggest issue I have is in telling my patients what their diagnoses are – as a sort of labelling, subject to ratification by the supervising psychiatrist.

When you or a family member begin(s) to keep to yourself/himself and sort of disconnect from the extended family/friends/communities, in a manner that is out of character, then it is time to begin to ask questions. The loss of relationships, break in relationships and/or limited social support can also lead to depression.


Sophisticated as the environment I operate in is, the moment the patients get out of consultation, they tell their family members: ‘Oh, I saw the therapist today and he said I’m bipolar or schizophrenic.’ Or something to that effect. And they allow that to control everything they do henceforth – which should not be. Mental illness is like any other disease. It could be medical and it could be situational.

As in every profession, there are some jargons in psychotherapy related to depression, as found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorder. They include: major depressive disorder, bipolar (depressive) disorder, disruptive mood, dysregulation disorder, persistent depressive disorder, (dysthymia) dysphoric disorder, medication-induced depressive disorder, unspecified depressive disorder,etc. Going into details of the above listed diagnoses would not be helpful in this instance. What I want to do here is to outline the causes of depression, how depression manifests, the “treatment” that would not work and what may help.

When you or a family member begin(s) to keep to yourself/himself and sort of disconnect from the extended family/friends/communities, in a manner that is out of character, then it is time to begin to ask questions. The loss of relationships, break in relationships and/or limited social support can also lead to depression. Chronic illness, financial loss, a history of trauma, stigma about asking for help, death in the family, emotional free-fall and pain/a life devoid of meaning are other causes of depression.

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Depression manifests through, of course, depressed moods, poor sleep or too much sleep, reduction in appetite or over-eating, irritable moods, flat affect, (not showing emotions) monosyllabic responses by an otherwise vivacious person, paranoia, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, persistent decreases in energy and anhedonia, which is an inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, including sex.

Keeping ourselves busy and trying to “make it”, as in having a big raise, a new house and having children do not take away the symptoms of depression. Some people resort to the use of alcohol/illicit drug when in the throes of depressive episodes, which is another behavioural symptom that leads to a dual diagnosis; that is, of mental illness and addiction.


Dealing with the above on our own and/or in our own way does not always work. The shallow interaction we have on the social media are mere facades. Keeping ourselves busy and trying to “make it”, as in having a big raise, a new house and having children do not take away the symptoms of depression. Some people resort to the use of alcohol/illicit drug when in the throes of depressive episodes, which is another behavioural symptom that leads to a dual diagnosis; that is, of mental illness and addiction.

What may help is being honest with others about our personal struggles, talking about our problems to people who would listen with an open mind, offer support and not be judgmental. In other words, look for a psychotherapist who may schedule follow up sessions and/or refer you to a psychiatrist for medication evaluation.

One important note: not all the enumerated symptoms above are as a result of perceived mental illness. They may just be biological or chemical imbalances that require medical attention. The sudden death of our loved ones is not always because of some witches/wizards, they may be more as a result of common treatable diseases like diabetes (high blood sugar) and hypertension (high blood pressure) which poverty and/or lack of public health education aid(s) in leading people to an early grave.

Jide Omotinugbon, a psychotherapist and medical social worker, writes from Kentucky, USA. He can be reached via jideo18@yahoo.com.