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Mental Health: Can free money or a better salary treat your depression?

It seems money really can solve your problems. Across the world, the growing rate of mental disability, depression and PTSD has forced us to pay attention to mental health. In Nigeria, events like the sad demise of Verishima Unokyur and the work of agencies like Mentally Aware Initiative have brought the issue of mental health to fore, particularly among the younger demographic. At this stage, most of the work around mental health in Nigeria revolves around creating awareness about the problem. In a distinctly conservative society, this is an obvious priority. What it means, however, is that conversations about finding the right solutions or treatments are not getting as much attention or any at all.  Even in the western world, treatment of mental health is still focused on chemical solutions. Drugs are prescribed to regulate hormones and help persons like the 1.5 million Nigerians reportedly living with Anxiety Disorder.However, the conditions that create mental health problems hardly ever get as much attention. In Nigeria, the plunge in the standard of living, insecurity and a lack of opportunities have heated over into a boiling pot, and in turn, created a drug crisis and an internet crime underworld.ALSO READ: There is a culture of silence around the mental health of young NigeriansIn many ways, Nigeria’s latent mental health emergency is the third of these problems.So, can drugs solve the problem or should we focus instead on improving the social conditions of the people at risk?For young Nigerians who work, the latter would mean putting free money in their pockets or boosting the size of their paychecks.The Nigerian minimum wage sits at a measly 18,000 naira (barely 50 dollars) a month. Nearly half of the country’s workforce is either unemployed or underemployed. So, say you find a young Nigerian man in his 20s and give him his annual salary, which could be a year’s worth of exposure, say 1.2 million naira. Then wait.Can money really solve your problems?The Canadian Government did the equivalent of this in the 1970s. Some of the people of Dauphin, Manitoba were chosen and given 16,000 Canadian Dollars. The government’s explanation? That they just wanted the lucky people to enjoy their lives as citizens of the country. Over the next few months and years, many important things happened. Some people left bad jobs and waited out for better ones. So, overall, work standards improved. Newborns were healthier, mostly because their mothers had better nutrition and healthcare. The most important result, according to VICE CANADA, was the rate of hospital visits for mental health problems dropped by 8.5%. For context, global depression rates have increased by 13% over the last decade.For the most part, this only confirms what many of us suspect; that mental health issues are closely related to social conditions than we care or know to admit. Social and Biological factorsAs the World Health Organisation, the leading medical body in the world, has explained: “Mental health is produced socially. The presence or absence of mental health is above all a social indicator and requires social as well as individual solutions.”ALSO READ: How to help your friend who’s dealing with depression?In truth, mental health can be affected by a number of factors. Sometimes, it’s biological; but other times, it’s social and subjective.In a society like Nigeria’s, understanding this can help young people, healthcare professionals and institutions to address depression and anxiety the right way.It also highlights the broader effects of the problems we read about on the pages of newspapers and feel in financial transactions and cost of living.So, there we have it. Money really can solve your problems.

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