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#TMDPresents : Inside Out , The Man Defined original series where we look into the many faces and phases of mental illness straight from those who’ve experienced the affects of it firsthand. These men share their stories of triumph, survival and their candid journeys to optimal mental health and wellness.

 

 

Meet Chinomso D. Nwachuku

Chinomso D. Nwachuku, a DC resident who  hails from Nigeria,  chats exclusively with The Man Defined about how he turned his personal battle with depression and anxiety into a new digital destination-   Talk Naija –  and a resource to help others going through the same thing.  Read more about him and his business team below.

 

The Man Defined Presents - Inside Out: A Mental Health Story featuring Chinomso D. Nwachuku , Founder of TalkNaija.org

Chinomso D. Nwachuku , Founder of TalkNaija.org

 

 

Tell us about growing up in Nigeria

Growing up in Nigeria was pure bliss.  It was by far an experience that words cannot adequately describe. Nigeria provided structures for me to thrive in.  Chief among those structures was family make up.  I come from a large extended family.  As a result of being from a large family, I was constantly around folks pouring life into me.  I learned to be happy and content without many external stimuli.  Additionally, our community was close knit, which further instilled in me the importance of family.  My upbringing in Nigeria is definitely the root that my success and my family’s success grew from.  Nigeria taught us patience, perseverance, and diligence.

 

When you came over to the States with your family were there any changes that you had to get accustomed to? 

When I came to the United States in 1997, I was not fluent in English at all.  I often mixed up English and Igbo words. For a sixth grader, the teachers informed my parents that I read at a third-grade level.  I had to get accustomed to the culture, the language, and the food.  Most importantly, I was forced to become accustomed to how people treated each other.  Nigeria was not devoid of bullying, however, the bullying that I witnessed and experienced in the United States was entirely different.  It bothered me that a person can be bullied for the entire school year simply because of things out of their control such as their parent’s inability to buy the latest sneakers for them.  I also had to adjust to the interaction among children and adults.  At times, I observed how children spoke to adults in a manner that I found to be disrespectful, which made me think that the laws to protect children in the United States were fully functioning.  I know for a fact that if I ever spoke to an adult in that manner in Nigeria, I would not be able to be writing this response to you all today.

 

When did you first realize that the “dark places” and thoughts that you mentioned were symptoms of depression and/or anxiety?

I first realized that the “dark places” and thoughts were symptoms of depression and/anxiety when I became interested in psychology, which was in 7th grade.  I read about the symptoms of depression and anxiety and searched for what to do to alleviate my symptoms. I found solace in reading and writing. I also discovered the benefits of improving my mood by engaging in physical activity.  I took money out of my lunch money allowance and bought a bench press set from a yard sale.  My interest in physical fitness peaked and I was able to control my mood as best as I could without professional help.

 

What are your thoughts on the societal classifications of mental health?

From my experience, I believe that mental health is typically shown from a narrow lens, which is usually negative.  In general, we hear of mental health usually when a great tragedy occurs.  However, we often do not hear about the spectrum of mental health.  We are often shown the most extreme spectrum of mental health.

 

 

If someone is feeling like you once felt – what are tangible steps they can take for improvement ( based on your opinion)?

In my opinion, I would suggest that the person seek professional help.  A mental health professional should be able to diagnose the person and create a treatment plan that will teach the person how to manage their symptoms.   Prior to seeking professional help, I forced myself to act opposite of how I was feeling.  For example, If I felt like being in bed all then I forced myself to go outside for a walk.  I discovered that changing my environment, even for a short period of time, helped me a bit.  In addition to professional help, if your doctor approves, I would suggest exercising.

 

Do you think that the stigmas about mental health are still prevalent today?

I still believe that the stigma around mental health is still prevalent today especially in the Nigerian community or African American community as a whole.  From my experience, in the Nigerian community, we struggle to accept that mental health conditions are real.  Of times, we attribute mental health conditions to a result of a curse.  TalkNaija spoke about this perception of mental health in the  video below:

 

TALK NAIJA

 

Tell us about the Talk Naija team and how you all connected:

Well, it all started with a DM slide… professionally, of course. Over the summer, I began to talk about my idea for TalkNaija more and more. My friends would share my posts about TalkNaija with their friends on Facebook. Through this, I received a message from Tutu Shotonwa, a licensed mental health clinician, expressing her interest in the idea for TalkNaija and desire to help in any way. Around this same time, I joined a group on Facebook for young Igbo professionals in the Healthcare field. As everyone was introducing themselves, I saw a comment from Uche Ukuku that she recently completed her doctorate in Counseling Psychology and had a passion for mental health awareness within the Nigerian community. I decided to reach out to her to present my idea for TalkNaija and she hopped onboard. I then received a message from Joy Ukaigwe, a data analyst, saying that she loved the idea of TalkNaija and would like to help. Within a few weeks, my idea went from a prayer to a reality. I have been blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful women. Our personalities and abilities complement each other and allow us to work in the most efficient way I’ve ever experienced. The way in which we all became connected affirmed to me that TalkNaija was meant to be.

The Man Defined Presents - Inside Out: A Mental Health Story featuring Chinomso D. Nwachuku , Founder of TalkNaija.org

Co-Founders of TalkNaija.org: Joy Ukaigwe, Dr. Uchechi Ukuku, Chinomso Nwachuku and Mujidat Tutu Shotonwa,

What is the goal/are the goals of your endeavor/s?

Our ultimate goal is to encourage Nigerians struggling with any mental health issue to seek treatment. We aim to do this by beginning with awareness. We don’t talk about mental health in our community the way we should. We desire to open the conversation through sharing people’s stories about their journey with mental health, providing resources for those struggling and their families, and to support our fellow people. We want to humanize and destigmatize mental illness, because we know this will lead to better outcomes.

The focus is on Nigerians specifically – any thoughts/plans on expansion into other nice groups that deal with these issues?

We have gotten so many similar questions, which has shown us that this is something needed throughout our African diaspora. Currently we are focusing on Nigerians, but the hope is to eventually spread into many of these communities so we can see change throughout our people.

Any common misconceptions that you’re looking to address with your platform/s?

That there is one face of mental illness. That people with mental illness are damaged. That you can “catch” mental illness. That people must have done something wrong to be suffering like this. That someone who has a mental illness is weak. We seek to stop the demonization of mental health and mental illness.

What do you have planned for Talk Naija in 2017?

We are currently working on reaching more people with our platform and expanding our network of professionals willing to help in any way. We also plan on having in-person events to generate more participation within our initiative. Honestly, each day we are evolving and improving.

CLOSING THOUGHTS
The Man Defined Presents - Inside Out: A Mental Health Story featuring Chinomso D. Nwachuku , Founder of TalkNaija.org

Founders of TalkNaija.org

 

We have gotten so much positive feedback, we have all been floored. I never could have guessed that this would reach so many people, so quickly, and so personally. I have had people tell me that because of TalkNaija they have started taking their medication, seeing a therapist, and talking to their loved ones about their struggles. There is nothing more humbling than knowing that the idea God placed in my heart is one that is changing lives for the better.

 

I just want to say thank you. Thank you for those supporting us. Thank you to those being touched by this. Thank you for breaking down these barriers to treatment. If you would like to share your story please contact us on www.TalkNaija.org or sharemystory@talknaija.org. If you would like to get involved in anyway please contact us at info@talknaija.org.

 

Do you have a #TMDPresents : Inside Out story you’d like to share? Contact us: stories@themandefined.com 

 

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