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Dr. Olufemi Oluwatayo is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, The RETREAT Healthcare. In this interview, the Consultant Psychiatrist who also served as the Mental Health Adviser to Lagos State Government until 2015 shares with SODIQ OYELEKE how to maintain mental health despite the challenges of hectic schedules of modern life. Excerpts…

Considering the level of noise in our society, would you say there is a relationship between noise and mental health?
As human being, we need a quiet place to relax after stress. But, regrettably, that is one of the things Nigerians are not good at. Many people like to keep working, but it is not good for our health. We need to learn to relax and have some rest.

What are the things that can trigger mental illness?
Mental illness can be caused by many things, such as stressful situations. For example, if someone is going through divorce, it can trigger it because it is a stressful situation, and that is psychological stress. Another thing could be drugs, cannabis, hereditary, or some physical health conditions.

Does suffering from mental health lead to stigmatization?
Stigmatisation is a very big issue all over the world, because people still find it difficult to identify with people with mental health disorder. What we are doing is to put in place welcoming and standard facilities for people with mental health, which means that quality service that is being rendered to physical health can be done for mental health. People should not look down on those living with mental health, as it can happen to anybody. Just the way people can develop diabetics, cancer or hypertension, mental illness can happen to anybody. It is not because they are cursed. People need to understand that it is a slow process, but when patient gets better, they recover completely.

How will you describe mental disorders?
People you see on the street are the ones at the very extreme end of mental disorder, and they are a very tiny minority of people with mental disorder. Most people with mental disorder walk around normally because there are varieties of mental disorders, such as depression, eating disorder, obsession, etc. It is a temporary thing and people can beat it. That is why it is called adjustment disorder.
By the time you see somebody on the street he or she has missed so many opportunities and because they are on the street does not mean they cannot be treated. They can be treated.

What’s your advice for Nigerians?
Mental breakdown is not the end of the world. It could be a breakthrough so that someone can learn. But to prevent you from having a mental health disorder, realise that a healthy body can only function with a healthy mind. If you keep your body healthy, your mind will function better; therefore, you need to comply with healthy lifestyle such as abstaining from smoking, if you want to drink it must be in moderation, engage in exercise, eat balanced diet. Most importantly, people need to sleep! A lot of Nigerians do not sleep for up to six or eight hours every night and it has to be structured in such a way that there will be consistency. People need to take time out of work and rest. Most importantly, if you notice anything do not let it drag for too long; seek medical help.

What is the attraction to mental health speciality?
Our mission is to impact mental health positively, to add value to the system. There is much going on, all we want to do is to take it to the next level. The Retreat came up because of my interest and love for mental health. My colleague and I came together and set it up as a way of giving back to the society and the whole idea was to compliment what government is doing, just trying to add value to the system. So we thought that it will be a good idea to have a mental hospital, purposely built with adequate facilities. We focus on three areas: in-patient services, out-patient services and screening for stress, memory impairment, etc. We have various screen service. And occasionally we go out to see patients in their homes. Also, we are not medication-focused, but therapeutic, which means we rely on a lot of therapeutic works and not just medication.
We need to realise that government cannot do it all, so the people must support government to make the country great. Individuals that want to add value to mental health treatment in Nigeria can speak to us, we are ready for collaboration.

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