By Kenneth Jukpor
Nkeiru Nwala is the Public Relations Officer of Apapa Customs Command. She was one of the resource persons at the 3rdWomen in Leadership and Career Empowerment Programme (WILCEP) Africa Mentorship programme. She discussed with MMS Plus newspaper, sharing tips on how Nigerian women can over depression despite numerous challenges. Enjoy it:
You explained in your presentation earlier that Nigerian women are greater victims of depression. How can they overcome this problem?
Like every other disease, prevention is better than cure. My first advice to anybody is to prevent depression. How can you do that? No matter what is going wrong around your life, stay positive. Look at the positive side of life because there is always a positive side. Be grateful to God for the good things that have happened and play down on the things you are expecting or have not happened the way you anticipated.
Another strategy to prevent depression is surrounding yourself with people who believe in you, positive people, people who value your gifts and not those who talk down on you at every opportunity. This is going to help you to stay positive.
Lifestyle is key to fighting depression. This is close to surrounding yourself with positive people. You have to make a conscious decision to surround yourself with people that never say never, people who do not give up easily. There is no situation that cannot be handled, except if you make the situation look like the worst. For every single door that closes, there are a thousand and one doors yet to be opened. I don’t pay attention to a closed door. I pay attention to all the other doors yet to be opened. This mindset would keep you going without time to be ready. At one time or the other, I have something that I am pursuing on the positive side. If I don’t get this, I will get the other one.
Women are more susceptible to depression because of the societal expectations, responsibilities around us. There is also family pressure and family expectations. If you are up to a certain age and you are not married, your family would begin to pressurize you. If you don’t give birth quickly, it’s the woman that they will ask. Nobody will ask the man. If you are not excelling in your profession or you are not married, you are tagged as an irresponsible woman even if you are not.
Despite the traffic situation in a place like Lagos, a virtuous woman has to rush back to keep the home, take care of the children, prepare food and you keep doing it all the time. Meanwhile, your husband thinks it is one of those things and never appreciates you for it. Overtime, because there is no reinforcement, you start getting depressed and you might just decide one day not do all these things that you were doing because you were never appreciated. They have been exhibiting positive behavior. You are putting all efforts in your business and yet you are not getting commensurate return. You prepare so hard for your exam and you don’t get good results. That positive reinforcement is what could have sustained the tempo and you build on but because this is not there, it could lead to depression.
Before you know it, you start saying things like “people that didn’t read up to me are passing and I’m failing. I would no longer read again” “I have been trying to take care of my husband and yet he doesn’t appreciate me. I would join other women who don’t care for their husband since he doesn’t appreciate me”.
Regardless of all these pressures, you are in charge of the decisions that you make. If you do anything stupid, the same society and family will judge you. You have to determine within yourself that you don’t owe anybody apart from yourself an explanation about your life. This will help you to stay positive even while you are waiting for all the things that you expect to happen. Sometimes, you get depressed and the expectations would come. That is when you will now know that all those depressing moments have taken their turns in your life. It has been proven that stress and all those things that lead to depression can be responsible for sicknesses like blood pressure, blood sugar, arthritis and cancer. Pay less attention to what people say and these depressing thoughts.
For me, if you are following your career path and you get a husband along the line, which is beautiful. However, if it doesn’t work out that way, you don’t have to lose your happiness and peace of mind. If the spouse doesn’t come, live your life to the fullest and be happy. Your personal conviction is between you and God. If you are a Christian, you follow the Christian principles and live responsibly. Find happiness in whatever you do, get to the peak of your career, eventually, marriage will come.
Thank God for the era we are in currently, if you get married and you don’t have children, there are many options available for you. You can opt for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), surrogate motherhood, adoption and others. Live your life to the fullest. You owe nobody any apology.
For women who go to work in the traffic situation in Lagos, have to manage kids and cater for the home. What advice would you proffer to managing stress and depression?
Those who are close to me know that there is no dull moment with me. Some people always say that I look vibrant and I always smile. But beyond that, I have been through a whole lot in my life. One thing that has kept me so strong is my faith and confidence in God. I surround myself with people. In my house, I live with more than several people. Some are blood related while others are not. I derive joy in coming back and meeting them at home. There is no space for negativity with them.
I am always acquiring knowledge. I spent time acquiring my first and second degree, as well as PhD and even certifications. By the time you have a drive at each point in time; you will have less time for negatives. I work as a Counsellor in my church, so I’m preparing for what to teach on Sunday. The beautiful thing about this is that by the time you are teaching others, you are also teaching yourself.
The word of God comes so alive because I always like to teach from an overflow. I don’t want to just tell you what Paul or Sarah did, I want to also tell you what I did. I lift those scriptures, practice it myself, get the result and when teaching, I’m telling you about the testimonies I also have. My pastor is always playing with songs, so most of these songs I sing them when I’m driving alone. Sometimes, the passersby will be wondering what is happening, they will smile at me and I’ll smile back at them.
This is my way of keeping my hope alive, despite the official and family challenges. This is my little secret and it works. I hardly fall sick because I’m always happy.
Do you think it is important to create more awareness for mentorship programs like the just concluded by MMS WILCEP Africa programme?
The mentorship program organized by MMS WOFHOF initiative was so rich and impactful and I felt it was challenging for me to see that only few people benefited from it. This is the need of the moment in the country. In a city like Lagos, depression is very common. Everyday there are several cases of suicide. There are so many things around the city to choke people up and get them depressed. I believe so strongly that every youth from secondary to university as well as market women to husbands and wives need to be enlightened about depression.
When I was in Ibadan, it was less stressful for me. I went to schools for mentorship programmes and sometimes I could plan to stay in the school for an hour but end up spending four hours. These young ones are usually confused with what they seen in the social media, so when they see us in uniforms, coming so close to them and listening to them, they yield themselves to learning. When you finish interacting with them, you will realize that there is so much work to do. This kind of mentorship programme needs to get to more people.
For instance, in a particular month, you can target secondary schools; you meet their proprietors and write letters to them about it. Even if each school brings 10- 20 students, you can mentor them to go back to their schools and mentor fellow students. The following month, you could target husbands and wives. You can also use church platforms to advertise the programme. Even if you attach a small price tag to it, that will not prevent people from coming. Your creative thinking will guide you on your selected target for each month or quarter. By the time you group each of them and you get the right people to volunteer as facilitators, you are going to make much impact.
What future do you see for the nation with mentorship programmes like this?
Change begins with me. The best thing that can happen to somebody is to unlearn, learn and relearn. This would change the psychology of the person. I also believe that when you change the mindset of people, their thoughts about their lives, situations and circumstances, you have eventually succeeded in changing the actions that they would take. This mentorship initiative by Kings Communications Limited is commendable and it’s a journey that just started. All we need is to fuel it and that little sacrifice would affect many lives.