Dr Casmir Nnaemeka is a clinical psychologist and chief executive officer of Abuja-based ‘At Peace Centre’. He recommends psycho-medicine as a way of tackling the increasing rate of aggression and depression among Nigerians. He spoke with AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE
As a clinical psychologist, what’s your advice in tackling the high level of aggression in the country?
Nigeria as a country has had series of aggressive crisis at different times, ranging from political, ethnic, and religious aggressions and the most recent, the Arewa youths call on Igbos to quit the North by October 1, 2017. The problem with this country is that our leaders have been feeding us with lies that we have grown to believe the lies as truth. In recent times, the emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, told Nigerians that we should tell ourselves the truth that the problem we are facing in this country is not ethnic ties or tribal issues but “struggle between the rich and the poor .” With this in mind, he said that aggressions in Nigeria will end. Let us not forget that the union ‘Nigeria’ has been merged since 1914, if destroyed cannot be rebuilt even in 2000 years. The few that have started knowing the truth now are not going about it the right way. For me, Dr Casmir, change is constant but very expensive.
Most of us are making the change for us but let’s make the change for our generations unborn.
Many may view ‘At Peace Centre’ to be a sort of peace-making place, can you tell us what the centre stands for?
The name ‘At Peace Center’ comes to bear because we deal basically on psychological issues, that people always overlook. When you talk about psychological issues, this simply means the overall mental health of an individual. People tend to ignore their mental health most times. Pathologically, when one has traces of malaria, typhoid, dental issues you run to a doctor or dentist. Those things are very important but we forget the most important thing which is one’s mental health, which determines a lot of things in our lives. At ‘AT Peace Centre,’ we chose that name because we want to be at peace. So many people don’t know who to talk to, so many have been betrayed because of a lot of things ranging from marriage, relationship, guidance and counseling etc.
They don’t know where to place it. This is where ‘At Peace Centre’ comes to play. Telling people that impossible is nothing. You can still have a full life. The centre is more or less a bridge between the seemingly healthy and the not healthy. It’s the bridge between the poor and the rich. We always try to reach out to correct dysfunctional behavioural attitude, making our society a better place.
What would you say is Nigeria’s problem as its citizen now behave like barbarians killing each other?
When you talk about Nigerians and the problems we are facing, this is mostly as a result of depression. Depression itself is a mental disorder, yes, it is an ailment. Depression is actually a low state of mind where one feels very sad without hope thereby loosing taste and touch with life. When one is not happy, one’s attitude and character change.
There are majorly two types of depression clinical and basic. Clinical depression has a lot of things to do with gene, it’s hereditary and medical. While basic depression develops when you lose a loved one, a job etc. A lot of situations now in Nigeria can lead you to that state ranging from poverty, greed, selfish interest, religion (fanatics), recession, hunger etc; can lead to depression thereby making the populace barbaric in attitude. Nigerians have been driven by hunger, poverty, corruption and so on. The challenge we are having nowadays is how to manage the problem. In fact, that is what makes the problem either complex or easy. Life itself is a struggle, the knowledge of how to manage the struggle makes it easier.
There is a rising cases of suicide and drug abuse by youths. How can it be tackled?
It is very easy. So many people are weak, lazy and short-sighted that they depend on the line that has been given them while some others are proactive. They ask questions and move around. For instance, you wake up and see that as a banker, you try to log onto your system and you have been blocked, that automatically means you are sacked. Early retirement, what is your plan B, it starts with your planning. What are your plans? If you can’t plan with N60, 000 a month, you cannot plan with N600, 000, 00. Therefore, this banker becomes suicidal.
When you talk about this, you talk about our services at ‘At Peace Centre.’ The only part of the body, that has issue and you know you are done for life is when you have brain problem. You may be crippled, lame, and blind, but as long as your brain is still working, nothing is impossible for you. All of us are not ready to use our brain. A good number of us use five per cent of our brain before we die. When you don’t think outside the box, depression comes to play. When you choose not to give yourself alternatives, when the need arises, you crash. Because you are not prepared for it.
How much of acceptability is clinical psychology in Nigeria?
In Nigeria today, clinical psychology is still battling what religion battled decades ago. Clinical psychology is having the same stigmatisation effect like psychiatric. There’s this cultural undertone and stigma that is attached to it when you say that someone is mad. When you talk to people about psychology and the reason you need to evaluate your brain every 90 days, they ask you if they told you they are mad. But their character depict that they exhibit “one minute” madness frequently. Most people that have visited ‘At Peace Centre’ know the importance. When you are mentally balanced, you rarely fall sick. Like in psychology, we don’t cure the ailment but the cause ology. We don’t clone. That’s the difference between psycho-medicine and pathological medicine.
What your assessment of the health sector under the Buhari administration?
Under this present administration the health sector is still running based on the given guidelines. If there’s going to be a change in the health sector, a lot of things need to be put in place. For instance, our guardian and counseling sections in most organisations and institutions are almost redundant. Psycho-medicine should be a major sector in the health industry. That is the way we can get it right. With the recent happenings in the Nigerian polity, periodic evaluation and counseling sessions are needed in schools, tertiary institutions, hospitals, every sector in general, especially in the security sector.