Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri: My Driving Force is to Live, Learn and Impact Generations Positively

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Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri is a mental health physician and advocate with over 15 years’ experience. She is the Medical Director and Psychiatrist – In-Chief at Pinnacle Medical Services, Lagos. Kadiri’s clinic has been involved in the application of innovative clinical approaches to the management/treatment of a wide range of psychological, emotional, and behavioral related disorders. This woman is so many things rolled into one – physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist, public speaker, publisher and movie and radio producer. Kadiri is passionate about creating mental health literacy in Nigeria and beyond. She does this through her Pinnacle Health Radio, an online health radio. She also runs a non-for-profit organisation called “Pinnacle Medicals Speakout geared towards promoting mental health literacy. Kadiri shares her experiences about managing mental health with Azuka Ogujiuba 

I’m from a polygamous home

I ’m Maymunah Garuba, now Kadiri, from Edo State, born a Muslim and still practicing as a Muslim.  My father and mother are still very much alive. I’m from a polygamous home and the first of nine children from my mum. All my siblings are married and of course my parents are grandparents. My husband is also from Edo State. Coming from a polygamous home has truly shaped me to who I am today. You are surrounded with a lot of people, inclusive of extended family members. You see competition every day, you have to be humble, kind to others and be very respectful. I don’t know what competition is because as a child, we compete to excel in school, in life and to please everyone. My large family members have helped me to keep up with all the stressors of being a wife, mother, and career person. I had most of my sisters with me till they got married, so I had many hands helping with my children.

Getting university education in Sokoto State

I went to Usman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto, the most peaceful university in Nigeria. I cried when I knew I was heading there to school because I grew up in Port Harcourt, but I eventually fell in love with this peaceful place. I was in Sokoto for eight years – six years plus ASUU strike. Guess what? My husband, when he decided to settle down and marry, he came all the way to Sokoto from Lagos to find me. There was a time he came on the night bus just to surprise me on my birthday. Some of my closest friends are found in the Northern part of Nigeria.

My parents are world’s best

Coming from the family I came from, my parents are world’s best, my siblings are the most supportive,  marrying my friend, Mr. Yusuf Asamah Kadiri, because he has given me wings to fly and for the fact he is very supportive with what I’m doing and having die-hard supportive friends. Then of course, choosing this my area of specialty as a Psychiatrist (Mental Health Physician) with the impact I’m making in the lives of people globally is also amazing. These are my biggest high points in life, so I always say this, and I live daily on this quote: My husband, my hero, My children my future, My career my passion, In God, I trust.

My pregnancies are always very difficult.

My pregnancies are always very difficult. I mean all three pregnancies. You may want to know why if one was difficult, I still went for a second and third time. You forget the pain once you see your baby. Those that know me personally at these trial periods of my life pray and even fast for me. They know that something is really wrong because I was a very lively person, then all of a sudden, stops talking, does sign language, then I spit a lot carrying containers everywhere. So, yes, my pregnancies were really difficult but of course the only thing I was holding on to was that I was going to give birth to a child and the thought of being a mum can’t be described unless you have been there.

Fears in life

To lose passion for what I live for is my biggest fear in life …which is Mental Health. I fear for me not to be able to impact lives because my driving force is to live, to learn and to impact generations positively. I still desire to globally impact more lives positively as a change maker. So, when people tell me that I’m a successful business owner, I tell them no, but a fulfilled entrepreneur. My mantra is Get up, Dress up and Show up.

The best gift I remember receiving as a child 

Excess love is the best gift I received as a child. This I say to you with all smiles. I remember one day, my paternal grandmother had to tell my lesson teacher not to come back because I needed sleep and the school workload was already too much. I received love from all angles till date. My family is the best.

My parents are the world’s best

My parents are Alhaji Aniru and Alhaja Meriatu Garuba. My father is the Imadu Deen of Auchi and a Muslim scholar. They are the world’s best parents. They have been very supportive of me. The only instance my dad thought I was making a wrong decision was when I said I wanted to be a Psychiatrist. He called for a meeting, but today, he is very proud of who I have become. He is a proud father of a renowned Nigerian Psychiatrist. He gives people my number when he notices they have a challenge. If I have a business decision now, aside from my husband, I call my dad because he is a great business man. I grew up seeing him as a business man and politician. Right now, he is back home carrying out his duties as an elder statesman. My mum, I don’t think I would have my three children if not for her support and prayers. She is still helping me till tomorrow. I say a big thank you to them always and may God continue to bless them. 

Some of my movies

I was Executive producer of award winning movies like Pepper Soup (focused on drug abuse) and Little Drops of Happy (focused on depression, postpartum depression and suicide) and creator of the most innovative mental health app in Africa called How Bodi.

 Suicide underreported in Nigeria 

Due to our religious and traditionalist views, suicide is currently still being underreported in Nigeria. However, an increase in the rate of suicide can be penned to a host of factors. These may be economic, social or otherwise. In Nigeria currently, there are high rate of unemployment, maternal and infant mortality and number of out-of-school children. These issues are an offshoot of the high poverty rates that the entire nation is dealing with. The inability of members of the society to provide even the basic amenities for themselves and others can spiral into depression and ultimately suicide. Issues such as widespread social media use and high rates of stress have also been linked to increased suicide rates in Nigeria. The need to catch up with the Joneses and to put on a show that indeed all is well when it is not, has a tendency to take a toll on individuals and can lead to suicide. 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 years old. The issue of social media has also been linked to these statistics. This is in addition to issues like bullying and identity confusion which can put a strain on a budding young mind and can invariably lead to suicide. Additionally, they are also at risk for drug and substance abuse which can also lead to suicide.

Finally, the poor healthcare system and consequently, the lack of access to mental health care can be attributed to an increase in the rate of suicide. If people are unable to see when issues are still mild, the odds of it becoming severe and leading to suicide become higher.

There is also the issue of copycat suicide whereby, a publicly announced case of suicide leads to more suicide cases. For this, I will say the media has a huge role to play in reporting suicide cases responsibly. This is because you never know who is vulnerable and this can make them take their lives without thinking of the ripple effect. Copycat suicide has been glamorised and people see it as normal. Once we know of anyone with the warning signs or red flags, let’s listen to them non-judgmentally and help them find solution to them.

Parents shouldn’t dismiss their talk of suicide

People who die by suicide don’t want to die, but to end their pain. So, parents shouldn’t dismiss their talk of suicide as just threats. If they notice any signs that they may be thinking about harming themselves, parents should help their children get help. Some of these warning signs are talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose, talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increasing use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious, agitated, or reckless, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or feeling isolated, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge and displaying extreme mood swings.

Speak out when going through challenges

A suicidal person can be healed but you need to find out what made the person to be suicidal in the first place and that’s why we keep telling people to speak out when going through challenges. Talking to a trusted family member, friend and even to a therapist helps. Most times, these individuals are depressed, hence the thoughts of suicide and completed suicide in some cases.

Domestic violence connected to mental illness 

When it comes to domestic violence, it is a risk factor for some people to develop mental illness such as anxiety, depression, among others. One of the factors is coming from a dysfunctional family setting where violence is the order of the day and in that space, the man is mainly the abuser while the woman is the abusee. The fact that there is domestic violence, this woman who is a natural nurturer, because we have the hormones (estrogen) and that is who we are, then  begin to start nurturing the children with hatred, bitterness, resentment and this is because of the violence they face from their husbands.

Why hit a woman in the first case?

The question is why hit a woman in the first case. Why not talk things out or you walk away. If given a second chance, it may keep on happening and the truth is, a woman beater may always be a woman beater and the question is why? It’s a whole lot of rot out there and you feel you can change a grown adult you didn’t train or don’t know what he is dealing with, this may lead to death. So, I will say, leave because your life is precious, but if you must stay, find out why he is doing this and help him get the much needed help. They can be helped.

Global recognition

I am a Goldman Sachs scholar, Vital Voices Fellow, Ashoka Change Maker and global thought leader. I have been recognised locally and globally for my movement in the field of health and wellness, especially mental health. I am a global affiliate of Work Place Options (United States and United Kingdom) and provides Critical Incidence Stress Management (CISM) and other forms of employee assistance programmes to corporate organisations worldwide. My driving force is to live, to learn and to impact generations positively. When not working as a Physician, I love to tour the world, work on disruptive innovations and talk fashion.