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Mental Health Isn’t About Crazy People, It’s About All Of US – Akindotun Merino

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Constructive Criticism 1 (8)
Prof. Akindotun Merino, Chief Executive Officer of JARS Education Group and the President of JARS Therapeutics

   John Michael Ojo

The issues of mental health in contemporary times have gone beyond those normally identified with crazy people on the street. These issues have become  a silent pandemic as one in every four persons is a victim of mental health.

This was the position of the Chief Executive Officer of JARS Education Group and the President of JARS Therapeutics, Prof. Akindotun Merino.

Prof. Merino  spoke at a programme organised by the Asake Centre, a Community Trauma Care Centre in  Lagos State put up by Merino with the aim of creating trauma awareness, providing affordable, available, social and psycho-social support to all Nigerians who are traumatised.

The California-based mental health expert stated that trauma among the old and the young is on the rise. Hence, the need for urgent preventive and support measures.

Merino, a Mental Health Commissioner in California, USA, said that “trauma is pervasive in Nigeria and when we talk about trauma, we are not just talking about somebody getting into an accident but rather emotional trauma.

“I’m talking about such high stress because of the things we do and everybody just says deal with it or you will be ok.

“There is rape, suicide, high rate of depression and even traffic can cause high stress.

” We have something called adverse child experiences, we have children who have experienced adversity growing up, children whose parents or guardians were abusive towards them, your boss that is being abusive towards you.

“Anything that has come to distort your life; divorce, living in a marriage that is filled with domestic violence or abuse of drug.

 

“When you hear people abuse drugs, sometimes it is not because they want to abuse it, sometimes it’s just to douse the pain of what they are experiencing

“And so, in this continent and in this nation particularly, we have to start thinking about mental health.

“Do you know that Nigeria as a country actually  loses  fifty-seven billion naira per year on mental health issues? Those are people who don’t go to work, who are not performing at their best because they have some forms of psychosis or they have some kind of depressed state that is happening with them.

“This is not just about crazy people, this is about all of us. It is not about somebody who is on the street who is mad, no, it is about all of us. It is about your father, it is about your mother, it is about yourself, about your children, it is that we are psychologically sane, it is that we are emotionally healthy, it is that you are financially buyable, it is that we are socially connected and it is that we are a community helping each other, so that we can be a better Nigeria.

“No matter how smart you are, no matter how intelligent you are, if you are not mentally well, you will not become the best of yourself.”

READ ALSO: Woman As A Powerful Force For National Development

According to Merino, JARS Therapeutics Centre will complement other government- owned mental health facilities in the state. She further noted that the centre would not act as an in-patient facility but one in which individual could easily work in and get assistance from mental heath professionals.

“What we are doing is for the community, is for the person who does not need medication but they know that there is something wrong with them, are not living their best lives and need somebody to talk to.

“We have trauma-trained specialists because we are introducing community trauma health but we also have an institute called JARS Institute and we have trained about sixty trauma specialists between 2020 and today and so, we have them in the country, we want people to know that they are there”, she said.

Stressing the importance of the centre, Merino  also lamented the lack of adequate psychiatric facilities in the country.

” It is so important because we have 250 psychiatrists or less in this country in a nation of two hundred million people. The number is just unbelievable.

Mental Health Isn't Just About Crazy People, It's About All Of US - Akindotun Merino

“So what we are doing is to bridge the gap. While the government takes care of the mentally ill, we want to take care of the middle, before you get to the place where you lose it, commit suicide, before you get to a place where you have some form of psychosis we want to be there providing affordable care. So nobody is turned away, if you don’t have money you can  come, but if you do we can charge”, she noted.

On the rate of those who suffer from trauma in the country, the mental health specialist stated that “one in every four person does”. she also stated that the Nigeria government has also come up with such a report in the past.

READ ALSO: Develop Self-Confidence: A Success Skill

She disclosed that the centre would collaborate with government and non-government organisations both locally and internationally in pursuing its objectives by creating trauma awareness in the country. She also revealed that the government could earn more than N57 billion in revenue yearly if  mental health challenges are addressed in the country.

Merino warned that if trauma issues are not properly handled, they could affect many generations of the individual through a process called epic-generics.

“If something happened to your grandfather or your grandmother and they didn’t take care of it, maybe they were abused somewhere or maybe they where pained in some kind of way and they didn’t take care of, it will move from one generation to another. The children would experience the pain of something they where not part of and this can go up to the fourteenth generation”, she said.

On what could be done, Merino stated that a communally could heal together

“What trauma has come to do is to destabilise your life, to take you away from your source of being. So, communally we heal together. According to her, it is in the context of relationship that we get hurt and also it is in the context of healthy relationship that we get healed. She therefore advised that one should “find those relationships that are healing and begin to nurture them as these would enable us to build a healthy community.”.

On his part, Toyin Sombe, a Counselling and Clinical Psychologist, disclosed that it was of no secret that without mental health there is no health as the brain which he referred to as the governor of the human system would be in disarray.

He stated that the programme was kick- starting from Lagos as the state remains the only state in Nigeria which seems to be concerned with mental health challenges in the country.

Also, a Psychiatric Consultant and the Medical Director of Tranquil and Quest Behavioral Health, Dr. Gbonjubola Abiri,  Stated that “trauma is a significant stressful life event that happens on individuals and many times, the individual is not expecting it and does not have the resources to cope with that problem at that time.”

She, however, noted that trauma differs in many people and could be affected by age, social status, economic status and emotional state of mind.

“Generally what you should look out for is a deviation from the norm. Has this person changed from how they behave, how they appear, how they look, how they dress, how they speak, how they express their thought, are they keeping to self, are they sleeping more or less, eating more or less, are they becoming more aggressive or are we noticing that in a bit to cope with their stress they are turning into harmful coping strategies such as drinking alcohol excessively, use of marijuana, or other illicit harmful substances?

“When people are under a lot of stress, they start cutting themselves, think of taking their own life and may eventually commit suicide.”

She maintained that these were the different presentations of people with trauma.

Mental Health Isn't Just About Crazy People, It's About All Of US - Akindotun Merino

Abiri said that “it was important for people to know that if your are traumatised you are not alone.

“Trauma happens to us at different stages of our lives but the most important thing is getting the help you deserve as soon as possible.

“That the help you deserve should be like a physical First-Aid”, she said.

She hoped that the initiative would not only increase the awareness of trauma but mental health in general.

She warned that the abuse of drugs especially “crack cocaine” among adolescents and teenagers was on the increase.

Dr Olayinka Jibunoh, a consultant psychiatrist and psychologist, who represented the First Lady, noted that the Lagos State government was committed to the wellbeing and welfare of residents and as such, no stone would be left unturned in ensuring that residents of the state get the best form of health care, including mental health in the state.

READ ALSO: Performance Management

Narrating her story, a  mental health trauma survivor, Mrs Eniola Adetunro, who was among the panellists revealed how she became traumatised after being raped at the age of 13 by seven men and taken advantage of by her step brother whom she confided in as the brother became another rapist who slept with her severally, a condition which almost shattered her dreams, affecting her education, self-esteem and the early stage of her marriage until she discovered the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba where she was helped.

While  responding to newsmen, the executive director of Virgins Pride Foundation, Lagos State, Dr. Nkechi Cicilia Odebiyi, noted   that the wellness centre will help to reduce the number of  people walking on the street. She stressed that most of the youths come from dysfunctional homes with nobody to talk with and are often left in the hands of religious leaders who offer prayers but never attend to the psycho-social needs of these individuals. She also hopes that Nigerians will take the opportunity of the centre by seeking professional help for a better society.

 

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Mental Health

Constructive Criticism 1 (8)

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Constructive Criticism 1 (8)

By Akindotun Merino
Understanding what motivates the people you are leading is a great way to better assist them, but you also have other pressures upon you as a leader, which can include your ultimate goal for your company as well as pressure from higher ups in your own hierarchy. What’s more, even when you are an understanding and compassionate leader, some may seek to test this. The difference between an understanding but effective leader versus a weak leader is a how well you respond when people attempt either consciously or unintentionally to cross boundaries. When someone engages in behavior that’s detrimental to your overall leadership vision, you occasionally have to intervene. What’s important in this case is that you intervene in an effective way that makes the situation better for everyone involved.

When you have to criticize or correct an employee, one of the most important things to consider are your own motivations. While it may be tempting to want to punish an employee who “acts up,” this can frequently create a poisonous environment where the employee misses the message of improvement and only hears a message that involves asserting your superior position over that employee. This can recreate a sense of a parent –child relationship which runs counter to seeing the other person involved as a person and an equal who deserves respect. Punishment often has unintended consequences, as well. If you look at the number of criminals who leave prison only to return again after a time, it becomes evident that punishment can harden someone into repeating behaviors as much as it can deter that person from those behaviors. Sometimes it is helpful to retreat from a potentially volatile interaction rather than addressing a person when you are angry. You can use email to schedule a time to address an issue, for example, which has the additional purpose of allowing you to restore your own emotional balance. Ultimately, you’re in conflict with an employee because he or she has crossed a boundary, whether it’s a social boundary or one related to your expectations for work. The more productive and effective approach is to find a way to correct the behavior rather than finding a way to punish the employee.

READ ALSO: Understanding Motivation (7)

One way to approach an intervention where you need to let an employee know about an area of improvement or an intolerable behavior that needs to be corrected is to try to envision the situation playing out in such a way that there are no losers. Instead, you want to consider a way in which everyone has an opportunity to come out a winner. For an employee who has trouble with being at work on time or at all, this might be a powerful move that allows that employee to take greater responsibility in her or his life, an improvement that can carry over into the long term, for example. When you develop a positive vision of what a successful correction looks like, you are better able to stay out of the punishment or blaming mentality that so often sabotages good intentions and well-meaning criticism.

Experiencing criticism can be a stressful situation, and the common approach towards hearing criticism is to prepare a defense. One way to soften another person’s experience of your criticism is to use the idea of a feedback sandwich. Instead of telling people what they are doing wrong all at once, you can mix the negative with genuine positive comments as well. It’s important that these are genuine, however, or you can come across as insincere and manipulative and lose any goodwill or trust you might have earned with your employees. Finding a positive thing to say about an employee who needs correction serves an additional purpose as well. Whenever you are angry at another person, a good tactic to help spur your thinking away from that person’s faults is to consider something positive about that person. Having something good to say about your employee can help to put the entire situation into a more manageable perspective.

When you set goals, it’s important that you set a goal that is achievable and corresponds to a time frame. Similarly, when you intervene with an employee about an area that needs improvement, it is helpful to have a definite view of success, as well as a time frame for when you can check back with the employee. This follow-up will work better when it is approached as a “how are you doing with this?” rather than a “have you done what I told you to?” style conversation. Furthermore, you should consider avoiding two types of extremes: not following up at all and overdoing your follow-up by continuously returning to the issue. When you initially discuss the issue with your employee, it will be most effective if you both identify a time in the future to schedule a follow-up conversation where you can check in with each other. If you never follow up it erodes your credibility when you do offer constructive criticism because it makes it seem as if there was no real need for criticism. On the other hand, if you continuously come back to the situation that prompted the criticism, you put the employee into a guilt-redemption type drama. If you follow up with your employee at a scheduled time, and that employee has not shown improvement, you can re-assess what needs to be done further, and use that time to schedule another follow-up. Keeping your follow-ups structured can help you avoid the pitfalls that can turn following up and being invested in your employee’s success into a form of harassing your employee.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
info@akinmerino.com
YouTube.com/akinmerino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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Mental Health

Understanding Motivation (7)

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Constructive Criticism 1 (8)

By Akindotun Merino
According to Burke, on some level most people in our society and culture are motivated by guilt. He uses this term loosely to include emotions such as shame, disgust, anxiety, and embarrassment. From this viewpoint, people act to try to avoid guilt emotions or to find redemption, which is what makes those feelings go away. It is this attempt to move from guilt to redemption that puts an individual’s “drama” in dramatism. There are a few factors that contribute in a large way to people’s feelings of guilt and inadequacy:

  • The social order or hierarchy. As people interact with each other, we unconsciously and consciously create a sort of pecking order through our language and concepts. This gives individuals a sense of relation to others in terms of being perceived as equals or as superior or inferior to another person or group of people.
  • The Negative, in this sense, is an act of rejecting your place in this perceived social order. Burke used the term “rotten with perfection” to describe the situation where people realize that their place in a social hierarchy is to some degree arbitrary. Those who inhabit a superior position may feel guilt or anxiety because our language includes a notion of perfection that is impossible to achieve in actuality. For example, someone who is known for being particularly generous might experience shame or guilt for wanting to put himself or herself first on occasion. The idea of perfect generosity is unattainable, so the person feels guilty, pushing them to seek redemption. Conversely, someone in an inferior social position might realize that he or she is not as lowly as circumstances bear out and this becomes motivation towards redemption.
  • Victimage is another factor in this drama where the guilty person lays the blame for her or his circumstances on an external source, another person or societal condition. There are two types of victimage: universal, which blames everyone and everything, and fractional, where a person blames a specific group or individual. In vilifying the other person, the guilty person can assume a heroic role in their drama.
  • Redemption is the final stage of this type of drama where the person purges guilt through a kind of death, either symbolic, as in a transformation in character or a confession of one’s sins or misdeeds, or in actuality by truly dying. It is uncommon and disrespectful, for example, to speak ill of the dead. Burke considered the redemption stage a transformation where one transcends the old order of social hierarchies and a new order is created. You can look at Burke’s transition from Guilt to Redemption as following two paths: the first begins with the status quo followed by guilt or anxiety about one’s place in that status quo, followed by identifying a scapegoat, followed by confession and repentance which lead to the transformation of the old order into a new order.

 READ ALSO: Understanding Motivation (7)

This description of the move from guilt to redemption can be helpful in understanding how people come to actively dislike others. Often at the root of ill-will is a feeling of inadequacy and guilt in an individual.

Another aspect of Burke’s theory of dramatism is called identification. If you have ever heard someone say (or have said yourself), “I can really identify with that person,” you’re getting at the heart of what Burke means by identification. In some ways it is the opposite of victimage. When you identify with someone else, you are able to feel empathy and compassion for them. In identification, something of you rubs off on the other person with whom you identify, and something of that person rubs off on you. In leadership, you can create an “unconscious willingness to be led” in another person by identifying with that person and trying to meet the other person’s needs. When you go out of your way to allow an employee off for a vacation he or she Is excited about, you create in that person a willingness to follow you and make your goals their goals.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
info@akinmerino.com
YouTube.com/akinmerino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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Mental Health

Understanding Motivation (6)

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Constructive Criticism 1 (8)

By Akindotun Merino
You can’t always get into the head of another person. Even if this were possible, understanding what motivates another person can be so complex that even that person is unaware of her or his motivations. However, to a certain degree, the essence of leadership is getting others to do what you need them to do, as if it were their original motives themselves. While you may not be able to specifically identify another person’s motives, there is a good rule of thumb that was developed by Kenneth Burke called dramatism.

Dramatisim. The great Canadian rock band Rush once sang, “All the world’s indeed a stage, and we are merely players.” To be fair, they borrowed this notion from William Shakespeare who noted that each person is like the star actor in his or her own play. Kenneth Burke developed his theory of dramatism based on this notion. If you understand that people see themselves as the star of their own drama, this can be the first step towards making a good guess as to what motivates them. If you can at the very least think in terms of how other people are motivated, you are better able to develop compassion for them. With compassion, you are better able to understand another person’s needs and how to meet those needs while motivating the person to help meet yours or your company’s needs.

READ ALSO: Leadership By Design (4)

The Pentad. The key aspect of Burke’s dramatism is referred to as the pentad, but if you have ever taken a class in journalism, you may recognize the pentad in another form, the five W’s. The pentad and the five W’s are similar and both allow you to think about who is doing what to whom, and how and why they are doing it. Here is the Pentad and how it relates to the Five W’s.

Scene. The scene of something is the same thing as the Where and the When of the five W’s. This doesn’t merely refer to the physical place where something may be occurring, but to the overall environment as well. When and where something occurs may explain exactly why the situation is playing out the way it is.

Agent. This refers to the actor or actors in a given situation. This also corresponds to the Who in the five W’s. When you look for motives behind people’s behaviors, who they are can be one source of motives, but their environment and the other factors of the pentad could also be sources for motives. For example, someone who comes to work not dressed properly may be simply rebelling against work policies. In this case, the motive is more about this particular person. Another possible motive however is that this person has been out of work so long that she or he does not have the nice clothes needed to meet the office policy. In this case, the motive is not really about the person or agent but more about the scene or situation, this person having been out of work so long to not have the appropriate clothes.

Act. The act is similar to the What in the five W’s. It is the action that is taking place in a given situation. If you assigned some work to an employee who didn’t finish the work in the time you expected, you could look at motivation in terms of the agent, in this case the employee needs more training or maybe doesn’t work as hard as you would expect. However, another possible “motive” lies in the action itself. Perhaps the task you assigned is a complicated enough task that cannot be accomplished in the time you expect, or this can at least be a major factor.

READ ALSO: Leadership By Design (5)

Agency. The agency aspect of the Pentad does not strictly conform to the Five W’s, however, if you add the question of How, this gets to what agency is referring to. In the previous example, the nature of the work that you assigned to the employee might be difficult, and you may already realize that the employee is a diligent worker who tends to perform well. However, if the employee picked an inefficient way to go about working on the assignment, this could explain why it didn’t meet up with your expectations. This would place the “motive” under agency where the problem is not the act itself, nor the agent or scene, but instead the problem is in how the agent is going about doing the act.

Purpose. The purpose part of the pentad corresponds to the Why of the five W’s. Imagine that in our previous example you gave an assignment to an employee who didn’t complete the assignment in what you considered was a reasonable amount of time. If you have looked at all the other aspects of the pentad to get an idea of why this is so, analyzing the purpose may help. Perhaps your employee didn’t understand why this task was necessary or what it was trying to accomplish.

As you can see, when you use the pentad to analyze situations, it allows you to think about all the different aspects of a situation. An effective leader won’t simply blame the employee for not living up to an expectation. Instead, leaders who are effective can analyze the different aspects of a situation in terms of the pentad to understand the situation better. It may turn out that the employee was perfectly justified in not living up to an expectation, and you have saved both the employee and yourself the hard feelings created from a misplaced lecture.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
info@akinmerino.com
YouTube.com/akinmerino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun

 

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