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Balancing Hustle and Mental Health – Tips and Stories from Young NigeriansBy Ahmad-Tijani Agbaje on April 29, 2024

“You wouldn’t last an hour in the asylum where they raised me.”

Okay, okay, let’s be serious now.

Nigeria and mental health don’t really have the best track record together.

According to this report by the World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS), only about three per cent of the undergraduate training hours for medical doctors is devoted to mental health, in comparison to 13% of the training hours for nurses and three per cent for non-doctor/non-nurse primary health care workers.

The conversation around mental health and wellness has gained traction recently (thankfully) with more and more Nigerians becoming more comfortable speaking about their struggles and advocating for help – as evidenced by the growing presence of NGOs and mental health services in the country.

Need driving demand and all that.

In January 2023, a revision of the Nigerian Mental Health Act of 1958 was passed, Nigerian Mental Health Act 2021, after two failed attempts – in 2003 and 2013.

The Nigerian Lunacy Ordinance – which had been amended and renamed The Nigerian Mental Health Act of 1958 – was written in the 1800s (yikes) and was coloured distastefully by how the public viewed mental illness at the time. Mentally challenged citizens were viewed as ‘lunatics’ and ‘idiots’, and the act did not once mention treatment.

It’s funny how the “amendment” of the original Lunacy Ordinance didn’t even make things that much better – the revision authorised mentally ill people to be kept (as in, locked up in “admission centres”), including those who attempted suicide or self-harmed. If they – people who had attempted suicide – were proven not to be mentally ill, they were tried in court.

excerpts from the NMA 1958
Excerpts from The Nigerian Mental Health Act 1958 (pages 11-12, and 26)

Compared to South Africa’s Mental Health Care Act (MHCA 2002), Nigeria’s Mental Health Act is almost scary.

For one, the MHCA 2002 starts by declaring that the Act is “To provide for the care, treatment and rehabilitation of persons who are mentally ill; to set out different procedures to be followed in the admission of such persons…”, and it recognises that “health is a state of physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and that mental health services should be provided as part of primary, secondary and tertiary health services”, it also “Prohibits against unfair discrimination of people with mental or other disabilities”.

Going deeper into the South African act, the differences between it and the Nigerian one are more apparent in its thoughtfulness; The MHCA 2002 allows a 30-day appeal period for people close to a mentally ill person (parents, spouse, partner, etc.) to appeal a decision made to admit them (the mentally disabled person) into a health program.

Maybe they (the family/relatives) think the program isn’t the best fit, or they have a different care plan. Before making a decision, the Board will listen to arguments from the person appealing (appellant), the person needing care (user), the program that was approved (applicant), the doctors involved, and the head of the facility where the care would happen.

The Board will then send a written decision (with reasons for it) to everyone involved.

If the Board agrees with the appeal, the care program will be stopped, and If the person was already admitted, they’ll be discharged unless they agree to the program themselves.

This differs from the Nigerian experience where a magistrate can make an indisputable decision regarding whether a mentally challenged person is admitted or not.

That level of intention and thought is what makes the difference between a law that ostracises and shuns mentally ill people, and one that embraces and cares for them by offering them the dignity of choice.

Anyway, while the conversation around mental health is growing, we thought we’d shine a light on one reason why many young Nigerians are up at night scratching their heads.

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

It has almost become part of our culture, this hustling that we are all doing, but can you blame Nigerians? The country was still recovering from its 2016 economic recession when another recession hit in 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not to be dramatic, but life was never the same afterwards.

Now, Nigerians just want to get their money up, and fast.

But mental well-being has taken a backseat in the battle against the scary FX rates, abysmal electricity, incessant ASUU strikes, and milky doughnuts (just kidding, just kidding).

The pressure from the country, social media, families, village people, etc, to do well, make money and have a good life during one of the most difficult times in Nigeria’s history is definitely something.

This is why we want to let you in on a little secret we found.

You’re not alone.

For this article, we spoke with young Nigerians living with mental challenges about what life is like battling themselves and this country.

From diagnosis, and how they navigate life, to reactions from family and coping mechanisms, we got into it.

So, you should too!

Meet our Heroes


Ola - An investment portfolio manager living in and battling both Lagos and chronic depression (his coping mechanisms are singing on Instagram and thanking God for his company’s WFH policy).

Victoria (name changed for anonymity purposes) – A freelance ghostwriter and digital artist who discovered she had depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder after she was withdrawn from University.

Dave (name changed for anonymity purposes) – A football-loving undergraduate studying in Benin city with a family history of mental health challenges who discovered he had an anxiety disorder in 2022.

Their Responses

IN3K8 Media · Balancing Hustle and Mental Health – Tips and Stories from Young Nigerians


If you couldn’t tell from listening to that, people are going through things.

E no dey show for face, but some people really do have it harder than others, and we need to talk about it more.

It’s hard, but there are things you can do that may help you feel better.

We’re no experts, but here’s what we recommend;

Journaling: Writing down your thoughts can help you understand yourself better, see patterns in your feelings and even help you come up with reasons why you may feel off sometimes. A 2018 study involving 70 adults with anxiety found that online journaling for 12 weeks made them feel significantly better.

All you need is a book and biro (or a device). Isn’t God good?

Talking to someone about how you feel: Sometimes, we can’t deal with it all on our own, and that doesn’t make us less strong or capable, it just is what it is.

Imagine it’s like trying to lift a large boulder. Chances are, you can’t do it alone, and it’s okay to admit that. Some people find it hard to be vulnerable, and the fear of judgement may also be a factor, but the next time you feel down in the dumps, give your closest friend or family member a ring and talk to them.

If they make you feel bad or awkward about it, they may not be the one to confide in.

Seek professional help: If things really feel like they’re spinning out of control, maybe it’s time to get a pair of trained eyes to survey the situation. From diagnosis to basic counselling to therapy and medication, there are different ways to get help, whatever stage of your mental health journey you are.

While the ugly reality is that many can’t afford the mental health care that they need, you’d be surprised at how many resources there are out there for mentally challenged people.

Which is why we have The Mental Wellness Hustle Index for you.

We pulled together places and services our respondents spoke of, as well as a few recommendations of our own.

Is anyone else doing it like us?

(The correct answer is no)

The Mental Wellness Hustle Index

Therapy & counselling near you

Greyhub Therapeutic center
Ibi Ayo
Olive Prime 
Carefronting Nigeria
Therapy Route
Akoma Health
Dr Khay’s Comfort

Initiatives & Resources

Safeplace Nigeria
She Writes Woman
Nigerian Mental Health Act 2021
Nigerian Mental Health


Ustherapy with Aanu
Dr Adeola Adeyemi
Aimee Shittu


NPH Aro, Abeokuta
FNPH Yaba, Lagos
Jos University Teaching Hospital
FNPH, Benin City
FNPH, Kaduna
UCH, Ibadan

Take the edge off

Budget House Party Hacks
DiD app



You can all see that our collective sanity as Nigerians is like that your secondary school uniform with one too many patches.

We just dey go, mehn.

But, this is us telling you you’re not alone, and there is power in seeking help, should you need it.

Also, what did you think of Ola’s coping mechanisms? And Victoria intentionally leaving her parents in the dark?

Even if you want to get in your therapy bag and leave recommendations for other readers, can we beat you?

Tell us in the comments dear, it’s a safe space!


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