For a big a part of her life, Hauwa Ojeifo had struggled with excessive temper and power swings, which, coupled with trauma from sexual and emotional abuse, severely interfered along with her high quality of life. In February 2016, she was on the verge of taking her personal life, however she shared her suicidal ideas with a good friend who inspired her to see a psychiatrist.
The highway to Hauwa’s prognosis was lengthy, laborious, and fraught with the disgrace, stigma, and secrecy that’s typically related to accessing psychological healthcare in Nigeria. It is for that reason that She Writes Girl, a non-profit organisation working to provide psychological well being a voice in Nigeria, was born. A part of their mission is to create secure areas for individuals to entry assist that is freed from disgrace and judgement, in addition to create higher lives for Nigerians by bettering the way in which they assume, really feel, and behave.
In Nigeria, there’s poor consciousness about psychological well being and the subject isn’t typically spoken about, as psychological well being circumstances are sometimes related to substance abuse or possession of evil spirits (within the native parlance, the actions of ‘village individuals’). This 2019 survey on ‘Psychological Well being in Nigeria’ assessed the notion, in addition to attitudes of Nigerians to psychological sickness, and one of many key findings from respondents was, “Psychological well being is individuals going mad.”
Nothing about us with out us
She Writes Girl is a psychological well being and incapacity rights advocacy organisation concerned in legislative advocacy, in addition to psychological well being coverage and reform throughout totally different sectors of the economic system and within the political area. On the coronary heart of their advocacy work is the mantra, “Nothing about us with out us.” That is the concept that no coverage needs to be determined by any consultant with out the total and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that coverage.
On this capability, Hauwa, who has since been identified with bipolar dysfunction and PTSD, with gentle psychosis and is now receiving therapy, testified earlier than the Nationwide Meeting Committee on Well being relating to the Psychological Well being Invoice of 2019. Her testimony highlighted deficiencies within the language and the truth that the human rights features of the authorized course of have been largely disregarded. The invoice was stepped down and despatched again for revision. The revised Psychological and Substance Abuse Invoice, 2019 handed for second studying in 2019, having been sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Chair of the Senate Committee on Well being. Regardless of the deficiencies within the invoice, it should nonetheless be a serious enchancment on the prevailing psychological well being laws which is guided by the Lunacy Act of 1958.
This was the primary time somebody with a identified psychological well being situation would testify earlier than the Home. It was made potential as a result of the organisation additionally runs an advocacy program the place individuals with lived experiences are educated to advocate for his or her rights and co-create options to their issues.
Provision of psychological well being providers and secure place clinics
“Reaching out to She Writes Girl was a life-changing choice for me. They’ve been there each step of the way in which and I’ve needed to name… at odd hours once I simply needed to speak to somebody who understood what I used to be going by way of… ” Uzezi, 30.
She Writes Girl additionally supplies psychological well being providers by way of a 24-hour toll-free helpline which is operational on daily basis of the week and is manned by six therapists and 4 counsellors; every with totally different areas of specialisation. From Kaduna to Lagos, Abuja to Enugu, the helpline serves as a lifeline for 1000’s of Nigerians who want skilled assist or simply want somebody to speak to.
Miracle Ihuoma, a licensed psychologist, and the lead counsellor, mentioned that from the get-go, callers are reassured of confidentiality and made to grasp that they’re in a secure, no judgement zone. “We make it possible for the caller is in a snug sufficient atmosphere to speak. When a caller is extraordinarily distraught, we use rest methods, and we reassure them,” Martina Ibe, an habit and psychotherapy knowledgeable added.
The She Writes Girl workforce members are nicely conscious that psychological well being points are on a spectrum, due to this fact options and interventions are by no means a one measurement matches all. Step one counsellors take is to supply psychological first assist to callers, then primarily based on wants evaluation, the caller is both referred to the in-house therapists, or supplied with particular instruments that are designed to assist the caller deal with their state of affairs.
The toll-free name centre — and the therapists hooked up to it — are funded by a grant from Airtel Nigeria. Funding partnerships with World Well being Group (WHO), Africa Girls’s Growth Fund and a bunch of others assist to make sure the sustainability of the organisation’s programmes.
Past the numbers to the individuals
When the helpline was launched in 2017, the decision centre obtained a most of 100 calls in a month; 5 years later, a median of 200 calls are obtained per day. “This 12 months alone, we have gotten as much as 20,000 hours of cellphone calls logged on the toll-free helpline,” Faiz Aliyu, COO at She Writes Girl, mentioned.
Throughout the totally different channels on which She Writes Girl operates, a neighborhood of 45,000 persons are served, together with the volunteers. For Nusaybah Abdulfatah, her publicity to the assets and providers offered by the organisation has helped her recognise unhealthy habits and patterns. “I used to be in a position to realise that I had an inclination to make use of emotional consuming as a coping mechanism and recognising that this wasn’t wholesome behaviour helped me study my triggers. Now, I am extra dedicated to a wholesome life-style. I do know that once I’m struggling, I can all the time attain out for assist in a secure atmosphere. I even have entry to numerous self-care instruments.”
She Writes Girl takes full benefit of the anonymity and accessibility that know-how typically supplies. From the toll-free helpline to Secure Place Assist Teams on Fb; She Writes Girl supplies a way of neighborhood. That is very vital as a result of one of many greatest issues within the psychological well being area is isolation, which is usually fuelled by disgrace. When individuals realise that they don’t seem to be alone of their wrestle and that there are professionals who actually care and are prepared to assist, they’re much less prone to really feel disgrace and extra inclined to simply accept assist.
A motion of the individuals for the individuals
She Writes Girl’s describes itself as a “A motion OF individuals with psychological well being circumstances FOR individuals with psychological well being circumstances.” That is the muse on which the Secure Place Group Clinics is constructed. Aliyu gave an outline of how the clinics function, “These clinics are run by advocates who’re educated in rights-respecting advocacy methods, psychological assist, and first grade interventions; in order that they’ve a radical understanding of psychological well being coverage and rights respecting psychological well being frameworks, which they will then use to coach their communities.” The clinics transitioned to completely on-line operations in 2020, in partnership with Meta.
What might be carried out higher?
The bodily Group Clinics have been operational within the Southeast, Southwest, North Central, and Northwest geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Funding limitations and language boundaries have been a few of the causes the Northeast and South South zones could not profit from this service.
Dropped calls are very irritating, nonetheless, for the helpline counsellors, poor reception brought on by spotty community connections can severely intervene with the effectiveness of any interventions. Ongoing conversations are required with community suppliers to enhance the service high quality of the helpline.
Counsellors and therapists have challenges too, and so they should put their very own wants on the again burner, to allow them to assist their shoppers. To stop burnout, She Writes Girl ensures that every therapist and counsellor has breaks. Weekly check-ins, month-to-month and quarterly psychological well being assessments are different measures put in place to make it possible for, ‘charity begins at house.’
The WHO Particular Initiative for Psychological Well being (2019-2023) centres on scaling-up psychological well being care as a part of common well being protection, leaving nobody behind. What does this imply for psychological well being providers in Nigeria? Within the first occasion, the Nationwide Major Healthcare Growth Company (NPHCDA) must actively companion with organisations like She Writes Girl to coach main healthcare employees within the follow and provision of psychological well being providers at Major Well being Care (PHC) stage. This can go a great distance in eradicating the stigma and human rights violations which are typically related to psychological well being circumstances in rural communities. Nevertheless, to combine psychological well being care successfully into main healthcare, would require legislative backing that will allow the required human useful resource capability improvement and most critically, the requisite funding.