Nigeria must normalize mental health needs -Ogidan-Odeseye – The Sun Nigeria


By Bianca Iboma-Emefu

Olamide Ogidan-Odeseye, (Larmmy) is the Co-Founder of HeartCafe, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that is focused on mental health sensitization and awareness. She is also a fast-rising twitter influencer with over 50 thousand followers.
Larmmy, also called Chelsea Godmother, co-hosts a Twitter Space session called HeartCafe every Friday at 5pm on her twitter page with her Co-Founder, Psychotherapist, Dedoyin Ajayi.
The Heartcafe has been able to provide care for over 160 individuals who have received free therapy sessions.
The Friday twitter space has been called mini-therapy sessions, by HeartCafe faithful fans who look forward to topics ranging from mental health awareness to relationships, learning about the different personality disorders and feel-good Fridays.

She is equally a trustee of ProjectHope, a forum that focus on philanthropy, skills acquisition, scholarships, and community development project.

A mother of three children, she wears many hats, but rolled into one. Though a Nigerian- USA- based Software Analyst,she equally does consulting jobs in IT
Recently, she was the Executive Producer to the short film, “Mirror” currently streaming on Youtube.
“Mirror” is a riveting short film produced by the award-winning Opeyemi Olakanmi, which raises the awareness of child sexual abuse and suicide.

Tell us about yourself?
I am Olamide Ogidan-Odeseye. I was born in Papa Ajao, Mushin, Lagos, but spent my teenage years in Ejigbo, Lagos. I’m from Ijebu, Ogun State. I am married and blessed with three lovely children. I am a real estate agent and JeLarmmy Homes and the newly established JeLarmmy Travel companies.

I am an Alumni of Obafemi Awolowo University, a trained Zoologist, but a
Senior Software Analyst, IT Consultant and an entrepreneur.
Over the years, I have been able to support a lot of small business owners with grants and mentorship.
In 2022, I was a guest speaker at the Catalyzing Change Week, an international event led by social innovators, entrepreneurs sharing knowledge and ideas to accelerate collaborative systems change.

I was the Director of Socials of the Nigerian Association of Zoology Students, Obafemi Awolowo (OAU) chapter and later I became the Vice President.

I won multiple awards from my Alma Mata; including the Best Entrepreneur.
In 2009. I was the Editor-In-Chief of Edify Magazine, which featured the final interview of the popular artist, Da Grin before his tragic passing on. The magazine never made it to the final print as the death of the artist was too sad to bear.

Currently, I am the co-author of a medical journal in the USA and also working on the launching of JeLarmmy homes, a 5-unit apartment housing set to be completed in October 2022. Also, I am a Beachbody Fitness coach, where I assist people in getting into a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally.
I initiated a challenge, “OH-MY-GAD!, in August 2022, in order to encourage people to join the drink a gallon of water everyday, and it was a huge success, based on testimonies we received. I equally hosts virtual zoom walkouts and dance sessions as well.

The secret towards achieving all is effective time management and therapy, as well as the amazing support system from my team.

What is your background in mental health?
I have no professional certificate on mental health, but based on experience garnered through advocacy and awareness, I developed the interest. My work in mental health is born out of shear passion. I co-founded HeartCafe with my friend who is a psychotherapist, Dedoyin Ajayi. I call myself her apprentice of her sometimes. HeartCafe is a mental health community that’s dedicated to supporting people with mental health disabilities and providing therapy.

When did you realize you needed to take steps to share and create awareness?
When I noticed the increasing number of people falling into depression and the alarming suicide rate among young adults, especially during the covid lockdown.

I also have someone close to me who is struggling with bipolar disorder. Moreso, one of my favorite designers, Kate Spade, equally jumped out of her window where she met her death.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in the progress towards the understanding of mental health, especially in Nigeria?

There have never been a comprehensive mental health act which addresses citizens’ mental health needs. Mental health conditions, such as intergenerational traumas, depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, chronic psychological and neurological illnesses, or other social/emotional disturbances, have no progressive law or infrastructure guiding their treatments. Nigeria has to normalize mental health needs if only Nigeria would reach a stage where people normalize getting therapy for their mental wellness. The stigmatization of mental illness prevents people from reaching out for help. Society also don’t understand that you can be rich and still be mentally ill. When Nigerians hear about an influencer or a celebrity battling with mental illness, they ask “but you have money”. We need to understand that having money does not have anything to do with mental health.

Would you say psychiatry as a field and profession has made any progress in Nigeria?

No, I think so much work still needs to be done. Psychology and Psychotherapy has been steadily making some progress lately, but I am afraid that Nigeria is still behind when we talk about psychiatry. Medications and prescriptions are not easily accessible to mentally ill individuals. In fact, taking the South West into consideration, the two major Psychiatric hospitals that are functional are Yaba, Lagos and Aro in Abeokuta. There are only a few rehabilitation centers and, even to get treatment in those mentioned places, you have to be connected.
If a psychotherapist’s client needs medication, for example, you need to know a psychiatrist who can prescribe these medications on a personal level which ought not to be so.

What can be done to improve the situation now, and how will this benefit Nigerians?

The government needs to prioritize healthcare, especially with the alarming rate of mental health that needs public awareness. We need to intensify the campaign against it and ensure that those in the hinterlands and rural communities equally get more awareness.
Moreso, we have to build more rehab centers, and make medications and treatment more accessible to patients.

How do you think Nigerians can help each other feel more comfortable talking about these issues?
Continually, we need to raise awareness and have these conversations more often. If you are battling with any form of mental illness, you are not alone. People should be able to access care and therapy. We can have toll free lines and have volunteer medical professionals who are willing to help. Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of and it is not as expensive as you think. If you are experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. I am a trustee for MyTherapist.ng which is on-demand, teletherapy platform, our aim is making mental health services accessible, affordable, and stigma-free for the average Nigerian. It is also 100% confidential.

What are some of the cultural and social factors that have lingered in cases you have been opportune to handle?
There is a deeply rooted social construct surrounding men reaching out for mental health care. There is a certain “hush narrative” that men must grapple with it, in the event that they have to speak up. The barrier is being lifted little by little, but we still have a long way to go.
Concerning the religious factor, it’s quite unfortunate that a lot of people still peg the responsibility of therapists to their spiritual leaders, or they think mental illness is as a result of “Evil spirit” and don’t need medications. Mental health victims need to seek adequate care. Even the Bible teaches faith without work is dead. It is good to pray about it, but you need to seek therapy as well.

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