In his early twenties, Arinze Chukwu found himself gripped by anxiety, which began to deeply trouble him about various aspects of life.
“I used to be anxious about everything, mostly beyond my control, to the extent that I didn’t take things at a reasonable pace,” Arinze said.
In 2021, young adults reportedlyexhibited the highest levels of anxiety and depression symptoms, with 62.9 percent reporting either one or both conditions, a situation where Arinze found himself.
The World Health Organization or WHO defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which an individual recognizes their own capabilities, manages everyday life stresses effectively, remains productive, contributes to their community, and realizes their potential.”
However, in a research study, adolescents who were surveyed had a very poor understanding of mental health, indicating a lack of knowledge in this area. This highlights the pressing necessity to raise awareness and educate people about mental health in Nigeria.
This, among other factors, inspired Ore Oroge, who was a 300-level psychology student at the Federal University, Oye (now graduate), to initiate a mental health community aimed at addressing mental health issues in society and promoting greater awareness of the subject.
“After healing, she heals others.”
The events of 2020 rendered it a disheartening year, leading Ore to grapple with her own mental health challenges. Nevertheless, she managed to discover inner strength.
“This community was inspired by the events of EndSars and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. During that time, many people’s mental health was at risk, including my own. It was a chaotic period, with many individuals experiencing depression and various other emotions. I spoke to numerous people who confided in me, and I realized that I was not alone in feeling this way. The state of the country was indeed tumultuous,” she told Prime Progress.
During the initial year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the worldwide rates of anxiety and depression witnessed a significant surge, with an alarming increase of 25%, as stated in a recent scientific brief from the World Health Organization (WHO).
To embark on her healing journey and improve, she disconnected from the online world and dedicated more time to her family. This ultimately paved the way for her recovery in the months that followed.
Drawing strength from her own experiences, she made the decision to assist others facing mental health challenges. “So it birthed an idea that as I shared with a friend, Jonathan who is now one of the executives in the community“, she mentioned as she recounted the story of her initiative.
The Ore Oroge Mental Health Awareness Community or OMHAC began as an initiative primarily focused on providing psychological first aid for those in need of a listening ear or seeking someone to talk to.
“Now, we hold virtual sessions where experts and professionals with extensive experience speak to us. It then evolved into forming a community of people where we had weekly discussions, with individuals sharing their own experiences,” Ore said.
She explained that their primary approach for first aid is through talk therapy or counseling, emphasizing that talk therapy is a form of psychological first aid. “Individuals are encouraged to reach out via DM to discuss their experiences and struggles.”
Sometimes, they are the ones getting the solutions by themselves because I am listening.
Arinze, who is conquering the battle against anxiety and other mental challenges, is now thriving in his photography and design career after undergoing talk sessions with Ore.
“As a creative entrepreneur, I’ve learned to take things at a reasonable pace and to simply do my best,” Arinze said with a grin.
For her talk therapy sessions, she outlined her approach, which involves gaining a deeper understanding of the individual to determine the most suitable course of action. If the situation falls within my expertise, I provide assistance and, for those with highly complex cases, I refer them to senior colleagues while maintaining follow-up support.
Jonathan Ayeni, a marketer who volunteers as a graphic designer for (OMHAC), emphasized that the organization holds personal significance for him, serving as a constant reminder to prioritize his mental well-being.
“Mental health is a topic that isn’t discussed enough, especially concerning the average person. We often focus on severe mental illnesses, but there are lesser-known mental health facts that every individual should be aware of and consider in their daily lives. Being part of a community that helps promote this kind of education and keeps the public informed is of utmost importance,” he said.
Running with a team of six members, Ore and her fellow team members undergo training sessions conducted by professionals. These training sessions equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively carry out their mission, ensuring that they are well-prepared to provide support and assistance to those seeking help with their mental health challenges. This collaborative effort enables the team to offer valuable guidance and resources to individuals in need, fostering a stronger and more supportive community for mental health awareness and advocacy.
The WhatsApp-based community was established at the beginning of 2021 when links were shared across various platforms, inviting individuals interested in improving their mental health. Presently, the community boasts more than 200 members on WhatsApp, all of whom have undergone transformational experiences.
“The community is for people to be aware and educated about mental health. 50 % of the people who joined the group have come with concerns that we have helped to solve.”