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Nigerian Woman Turns her Pain into a National Awareness Initiative

In February of 2016, Hauwa Ojeifo considered taking her own life. She was diagnosed with Bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder with mild psychosis. Two months after Ojeifo’s diagnosis, she said she decided to turn her difficult experiences around. She started to create awareness on the far-reaching impacts of mental health in Nigeria. In April 2016, she created She Writes Woman, a non-profit organization focused on providing mental health support for those who may need it in the West African nation. There is minimal mental health awareness and there are not enough mental health professionals in Nigeria. In a country of more than 200 million people, there are only 250 practicing psychiatrists, according to the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria. Ojeifo told CNN that She Writes Woman started as a blog but she realized she could do more with it, “At first, I was just using it as an outlet to share my experiences and that of other women,” she explained. Eventually, it morphed into a support community for people with mental health conditions. The 28-year-old got trained as a mental health coach so that she could start a helpline to talk to people experiencing overwhelming mental health symptoms. In February, following deliberations by legislators to pass a proposed mental health bill, Ojeifo became the first person to testify before the Nigerian parliament on the rights of persons with mental health conditions in the country.