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Psychiatrists have expressed concerns about the state of mental health of most Nigerian politicians as the country elects new leaders in the 2023 general election.

According to them, the electioneering period is a moment of an epidemic of mental health problems among politicians.

They explained that politicians are prone to mental health problems at this period because a good number of them do not sleep well, are unduly irritable and come up with verbal or physical aggression against people at home.

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The anxiety and stress according to them that accompanies elections in the country has surged mental disorders in politicians vying for public offices.

Naiaj news gathered that the president of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), Professor James Obindo explained that there are implications of pre-election activities on the mental health of politicians, especially those without realistic expectations and those without adequate resilience for results when they lose.

Obindo, who described the current election period in Nigeria as “a moment of an epidemic of mental health problems among politicians and the electorate alike,” told Nigerian Tribune that the stress of the campaign and the outcome of an election can subject them to mental illness.

He submitted that “It is quite challenging and those whose health is on the balance can actually be impacted because there is a thin line between mental illnesses and mental health. The stress of the campaign and the outcome of the polls can actually tilt them towards becoming mentally ill.

“For those who have had mental illnesses before and are coping and doing fairly well, the stress of electioneering, the campaigns and a negative result of the election may trigger a relapse of their mental condition.

“More than 30 per cent of the electorate are also at risk of developing mental disorders due to the pressures of life and security issues like banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery.

“Imagine the anger and trauma at filling stations and ATM points because of fuel scarcity and cash crunch. Some people have developed depression. So many other mental illnesses can actually become precipitated in people who were previously without mental problems.”

On his part, the President, of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Dr Victor Makanjuola, who is a consultant psychiatrist, also said the electioneering period is a source of a high degree of anxiety for politicians and this can be worsened by the peculiarities of each individual’s genetic makeup.

Makanjuola stated that “Anxiety in someone who is prone to it before this will be escalated during this period of uncertainty about the outcome of the election.

“Someone who is prone to paranoia, in such a person, being suspicious will become really exaggerated in this period of election and he might become unduly suspicious of even his allies, let alone his enemies’ intentions.

“If he is afraid that voters will pull out at the last minute like we are seeing now or if he has a case in court challenging his candidacy, even while the main election is going on, all these can add to his anxiety level.

“When results of elections start to come in, a politician can find it difficult to accept the loss and may need to go through the stages of grief to overcome the loss. It is like the loss of an individual for that politician. The grief can be that profound. It can challenge his mental state and cause him to experience a breakdown.

“This explains the irrational behaviours of some political actors shortly after election results are announced. They behave out of character. It is part of adjusting to the stress or responding to the stress of the loss.

“Mind you, essentially, mental health is the individual’s response to changes in his environment, his ability to contribute productively to his community, withstand stress and respond appropriately to stressful situations and when there are adversities, he is also able to cope. Such a person has good mental health.

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“So, for politicians, generally, their mental health will really be challenged. It cannot be optimal until this election period is over. Some will respond appropriately and cope with the stress while others may not cope with stress. They may not necessarily have full mental health disorder despite not coping well but those who are genetically predisposed to mental health disorders may actually break down.”

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