Managing Subsidy-Related Depression



A depressed man in deep thought Image Source; Jupiter

It is no longer news that the Federal Government of Nigeria has stopped the subsidisation of petrol. One of the direct and immediate implications of this development is the increase in the pump price of the product, which has also triggered increase in the prices of food and transportation.

For a country that has pegged minimum wage at 30,000 naira, it will be extremely difficult for citizens to cope financially. This is more so in the midst of raging inflation and the reckless fall of the nation’s currency, the naira, in both the local and international markets.

The average Nigerian worker is already an endangered species, because going by his take-home pay, nothing honourable is expected to happen in his life. A salary that barely lasts one week is an economic time bomb that will surely lead to the demolition of wellbeing and self-esteem. Grappling with financial difficulty in austere times is one of the gateways to depression.

Many families have been destroyed by this very important survival factor. Marriages are crumbling due to the inability of husbands to provide for their families. A vicious cycle of depression is gaining momentum in Nigeria because sufferers of the condition do not have the financial wherewithal to seek help from psychologists and psychiatrists.

Food, Mood and the Cognitive Process

Economic hardship has been linked with depressive thoughts and symptoms, as a direct reflection of stress through adverse material and health conditions (Lovallo, 2005; Pearlin, 1989). Pearlin goes further to argue that depression is one of the most obvious manifestations of stress.

Stress, in itself, could be a product of many factors, including but not limited to financial hardship, marital crisis, adverse health condition, loss of employment, debt and other forms of deprivation. Interestingly, all the aforementioned factors can be triggered by economic hardship created by government policies, such as the recent removal of subsidy on petroleum products by the Federal Government.

There are however strategies that can be put in place to dispel the dark and inclement financial and economic clouds hovering over the lives of Nigerian workers both in the public and private sectors. These strategies will go a long way in alleviating all forms of stress and psychological agonies linked to the effects of subsidy removal.

Medication and Religious Deception

For those who are already battling depression, consulting a psychologist and/ or a psychiatrist remains the best move. This is apparently because issues pertaining to mental health should not be toyed with; they are very delicate and must not be treated with home medication.

For our peculiar situation in Nigeria, one of the best strategies for tackling subsidy-related depression is for Nigerian workers to dialogue with their employers, just as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has recently done by engaging the Federal Government. During the roundtable, several propositions were made on the part of labour, while the government also made promises that heightened the hopes of civil servants.

Labour proposed a minimum wage of 200,000 naira monthly. Even though that demand may not be totally met, there are high hopes that the federal government is committed to bettering the lot of civil servants in terms of their wages.

Another strategy could be reducing official workdays as seen in some states like Edo. Governor Godwin Obaseki took the step in order to reduce the additional financial burden the subsidy removal would place on workers in the state. By so doing, the governor has systematically killed many birds with one stone.

Chaotic Transport Systems and Public Health

The lessons learnt from COVID 19 restrictions have shown that people can work from home these days and still deliver efficiently in their roles, especially with the innovations available in the digital space. Rather than towing the inglorious path of laying off staff, employers can reduce the number of workdays and still achieve their targets.

Employers can also either increase their staff’s salaries or offer them special transportation allowances that will ease the financial stress they are grappling with. Such measures will no doubt have an effect on their mental wellbeing by removing all forms of agonising thoughts and lamentations, which are symptomatic of the onset of depression.

Most importantly, keeping a positive mental attitude and constantly reminding onself that challenges are meant to be overcome through hopeful thinking and prayer can also go a long way in stabilising the mind and keeping it free from worries capable of dampening the human spirit.


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