Mental Health is often misunderstood, especially by those  who have never suffered from it. It is not well prioritized in our society as people are not well informed on what Mental Health actually looks like. Dedoyin Ajayi is changing that narrative.

The psychotherapist with a specialty in Emotional Health and a diploma in Professional Counselling is using her social media platforms to advocate and educate the society on Mental Health.

She’s also a certified Neuro-linguistic practitioner from the Academy of Modern and Applied Psychology. Dedoyin has a thriving counseling practice with an average of thirty hours per week, vested into both virtual and physical counselling sessions. She currently serves in the capacity of a consultant therapist three organizations, and specializes in helping individuals with suicide ideations, depression, childhood trauma, existential crises, and personality disorders.

She shares her inspiring journey exclusively with Esther Ijewere in this educative and insightful interview

Childhood Influence

It started when I was 7 years old. I remember that I’d fantasize about having an office where people came to cry. I’d give them a handkerchief and calm them down. As soon as they felt calm, they’d go outside and pay my secretary. I never quite understood the picture my imagination was painting, but I knew it was my very first inclination towards preparing me for my present career path

Why I pitched my tent in the  Mental Health sector

As a child, I had a profoundly small stature and I was bullied a lot because of this. It created a deep seated low self esteem that led to feelings of bitterness, resentment and inadequacy. I recall that I badly wanted to talk to somebody that wasn’t family. I knew something was terribly wrong and I needed help. I however didn’t know who to turn to. This helpless feeling drove me to a decision: being that person for other people. I wanted to be able to have the listening ears I didn’t have. This led to a voracious research about the mental health sector. My findings were very discouraging at the time, seeing as therapy wasn’t widely accepted and in some cases, even still being stigmatized. I however couldn’t deny the deep longing within me, to tread this path and here I am.

Being a psychotherapist, Neuro-linguistic practitioner, consultant and staying grounded

To be very honest, I’m not yet proud of how I manage it. Thankfully I have a wonderful support system in my husband and a few close friends who are to it that I rest and take my structured breaks. Sometimes I go through mental burn-outs but these episodes are becoming few and far between. I’m however learning to really prioritize my own mental needs as well.

My Mental Health advocacy on social media, and its impact so far

I became an active mental health advocate in 2018. This stemmed from a discovery I made, which was the fact that the Nigerian mental health community was grossly under-represented on social media. We have a few people doing great things but there was a huge content and information sparsity that needed to be addressed. It’s why I decided to become a voice of mental health for the Nigerian community. As for impact, the response was very discouraging at first, but I continued. The past one year has however been explosive. The feedback has been wild to say the least. I’ve had people sending me DMs, telling me how a post I made was specifically for them and this spurred them to book a session. Little by little, the stigmatization surrounding mental health is thinning out. The narrative is changing! I’m super excited.

Why the Government should support the Mental Health 

First and foremost, it’s no news that the government has been very laid back about the mental health sector, especially considering the fact that an average Nigerian today, has a pertinent issue bothering them. The need for structured emotional support cannot be overemphasized. I’d suggest that the government looks into building Walk-In Therapy Centres just the same way we have clinics. This would enable people to readily have access to subsidized mental health care. There should also be a massive Nationwide awareness sponsored by the government, with the aim of sensitizing people about their mental health. The more conversations we have about the mental health sector, the more growth we would experience as a country.

Challenges of my work

The primary challenge is stigmatization. A lot of people reach out to tell me about friends or family members they’d love to recommend therapy to, but would never be open to the idea of speaking to a “shrink” after all they are not mad.

Another issue is social support. While receiving mental health care, it is imperative that the patient has an effective support system which would further facilitate their recovery. Imagine having to go to work during a depressive phase because your boss doesn’t believe that depression is a valid reason to be exempt from work! This needs to change. All hands must be on deck to help rewrite the narrative about mental illness being a sign of laziness or cowardice.

Other projects and activities

Presently, I co-founded a mental health awareness initiative themed HEART CAFE with Olamide Ogidan-Odeseye (@larmmy). It’s a weekly meeting that is held on Twitter every Friday, where people come to unburden, network and most importantly receive psycho-educational tips that keep them up to speed about mental health. I also run a YouTube channel (Thededoyinajayi), where I get to talk about mental health issues as well as conversations surrounding relationships and lifestyle.

What I enjoy most about my job

The fulfillment that comes with seeing a client recover! Most especially suicidal clients. There’s nothing quite like it. I’d literally be grinning from ear to ear in gratitude and satisfaction.

3 women who inspire me and why

One of my major inspirations is Dr. Thema Bryant; a clinical psychologist practicing in the USA. She’s someone whose consistency serves as a major motivation.

Another woman who inspires me is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It’s her self confidence for me. The very fact that she’s able to rock her traditional attires in foreign or westernized settings is a reflection of her healthy self perception and the strength of her persona.

The third woman is Rinu Oduala (Savvy Rinu). She displayed a unique and uncanny strength during the whole #endsars campaign, and her intelligence is phenomenal. These three women are most definitely huge sources of inspiration to me.

When a person should seek therapy

Asides mainstream mental health issues like clinical depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and so on, therapy should be sought the moment you notice any alteration in the default emotional state. Feelings of deep sadness, incessant worrying, loss of concentration at work, relationship issues, abuse of any kind, frequent change in moods, loss of interest in activities as well as a deep gut feeling that something is wrong. The truth is ANYONE can come for therapy. Even if it’s for a holistic checkup. We all could do with emotional support systems.

Nuggets on how to stay mentally and emotionally balanced

To stay mentally and emotionally balanced, the very first step is SELF AWARENESS. You can’t manage what you don’t understand. Afterwards, it’s important to be intentional about taking mental recuperative breaks. It’s a form of self-care. Going for walks, swimming, taking dance/ music lessons, exercising and so on can serve as activities you can engage in during a mental recuperative break. Another vital thing is to filter through your relationships. Humans play a major role in our mental well-being. Surround yourself with people who genuinely love and validate you. Above all, never hesitate to seek help. Very important.

Being a Woman of Rubies

My implicit faith in humanity. I strongly believe that if we have a love-themed world, everything would be more colorful and beautiful. The fact that I choose to heal the world one heart at a time, makes me a Woman of Rubies.

***Dedoyin Ajayi can be reached on social media : @thededoyinajayi on IG, @dedoyinajayi on Twitter. A detailed overview on the services she renders are on dedoyinajayi.com