"1 in 4 adults in the UK suffers from mental illness... The vast majority of these illnesses are forms of anxiety, depression and aggression. These conditions reach only negligible proportions amongst indigenous peoples. I recall a lesson with my first cultural mentor, Rev. Sule - the wise man from Ijebu Ode. I had just finished my Masters degree in Counseling. I had more questions than a precocious 8 year old. I was asking him about traditional mental health treatment. My questions about depression, self esteem, loneliness were off key... 'These things are foreign to our culture, he said.' Then, he went on to teach me about the psychological effects of AGBOLE culture. 'You see a house like this? We might live 20 people here. All the young men sleep in this room. All the women sleep here. The young children will be with their mothers. The eldest man will have a small room there...' I asked, 'What about privacy???' His response was deafening; 'There is no such thing as privacy in the AGBOLE. We are all together as one. We share one life. Nothing is hidden.'
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And so, I recall how life was even up to the 70's and the 80's, when so many people had an uncle, an aunt, or grandparents who lived with them. When you did something - good or bad - somebody (usually your mother) would call your auntie back in Chicago or Houston or just across town to report you to the authorities. I remember how invasive it all seemed. 'Why does everybody need to know your business???' Today it makes more sense and I appreciate the cultural resilience of my people. After hundreds of years of colonization and insistence that we be what they wanted us to be, we continue to wake up clothed in our right minds! They cut our branches, they burn our leaves, they pull out our trunks . . . but never could they overtake our roots. You need roots to live the medicine!"
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | www.ObafemiO.com