Psychiatrists are known colloquially in developed countries as head-shrinkers, and rightly so too. We are being given an alert that 85 percent case of psychiatric problems in Nigeria occur among the youths, although the phenomenon has been an old issue. Thanks to the Association of Nigerian Psychiatrists for raising this issue now.
Frankly, a large number of Nigerians have an urgent need of the services of head-shrinkers, although, many of us are not aware of the early signs and various patterns of manifestations of psychological abnormalities. Ranging from those who delight in throwing their weight about to the sadists and masochists that we have in large numbers in Nigeria, psychiatric cases are numerous.
Even some precocious and hyperactive children that we admire for their brilliance and bravado may be in need of the services of head-shrinkers. Not many people know the fact that psychiatric abnormalities usually start first in the brain, especially in the hemisphere which specialists call the large brain or cerebrum. The brain can become crippled when the cerebrum gets over-developed, thus stifling the function of the cerebellum.
We often make the mistake of judging the age of individuals based on chronological timing from birth, whereas the natural history of every individual spans many centuries. So, everyone is born with some load of personal assets and liabilities which act as personal bank, from which the individual can draw, spend, add and make balances. Therefore, human behavioural patterns and experiences in life are determined by more factors than we generally know.
The alert coming from the Association of Nigerian Psychiatrists about alarming cases of psychiatric abnormalities among Nigerian youths should be taken quite seriously. It is not enough to attribute the problem to the consumption of hard and prohibited drugs by youths, or joblessness. Neither can we hold recession responsible for increasing acts of irresponsibility and lawlessness. Proliferation of firearms, criminality and terrorism are aberrations of their own, whose causal factors go beyond what we know. It is obvious that humans are harvesting what had been sown long ago.
Human environments became negative and hostile as a result of many factors, including global warming and climate change. Individuals react in various ways to negative and hostile environments more often through aggressiveness for the sake of survival. Some people also transfer their frustrations and aggression to other people, in reaction.
A theory which Ian Fleming called the Law of the Quantum of Solace, stipulates that everyone needs some minimum level of happiness to be able to cope with the stresses and challenges of life daily. When that minimum level of solace or satisfaction is not there as a support system, then an individual can resort to alternative means for comfort.
Various means in the search for comfort and solace include love and personal relationship, sports and other hobbies and diversions, religion and, unfortunately, the consumption of alcohol and prohibited substances. The consumption of addictive substances as a means to find comfort and happiness may be more common among youths, for reasons that are quite many. Unfortunately, the desire to get “high” can degenerate into addiction and a slide down into a world of illusion and irresponsibility, calling for the services of head-shrinkers.
It is not enough to give an alert that Nigerian youths are becoming drug addicts, neither is it enough to enumerate the causes of such aberrations. From individual homes, to various levels of government, there is a need for concerted efforts to half the menace of psychiatric problems among the youths.
Parents should show more concern and give more attention to their children and what activities they engage in. Politicians should not groom and lure youths to serve their selfish purposes, with money.
Religious organisations which should be in the fore-front in youth redemption crusade, tend to create some problems, ranging from indoctrination to encouragement of hallucination. The gibberish of “speaking in tongues” often degenerate to psychiatric cases, especially with empty stomach. As a ready opium of impoverished and devalued masses religion has become a ready means of over –charging the brains of the masses. Let the Association of Nigerian head-shrinkers turn their attention in that direction too.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.