Making a Case for DEPOWA’s PTSD Centre
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
The mental, emotional and psychological trauma men and officers of the Nigerian military have been battling with in recent times undoubtedly gives their spouses, on the home front, migraine.
But a workable and lasting solution is already in the offing for the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, affecting military personnel in the country. The source of the therapy is none other than the Defense and Police Officers’ Wives Association (DEPOWA), presently led by Mrs. Vickie Irabor.
DEPOWA, under the leadership of Mrs. Irabor, wife of the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, decries the situation where troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces are bugged down by stress and other forms of mental and psychological ailments, occasioned by troops’ involvement in sustained military operations, across the country.
In a post-traumatic seminar organised in November 2021 by the Army Headquarters Department of Transformation and Innovation, the Nigerian Army expressed concerns over PTSD among its personnel.
The Army’s Chief of Transformation and Innovation, Maj. Gen. Charles Ofoche, said there was a need for awareness of the ailment, which he admitted was on the rise.
According to him, the awareness will help to contain the stress syndrome in order to achieve reduced operational risks, increased efficiency, and improved operational effectiveness.
He said, “The purpose of the seminar is to create awareness on the increasing incidences of Acute Stress Reaction, Acute Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst the troops and its effects on military operations.
“The Nigerian Army intends to draw awareness of commanders to the stress syndrome to achieve reduced operational risks, increased efficiency, and improved operational effectiveness.”
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, who was represented at the seminar by the Chief of Operations (Army), Maj. Gen. Olufemi Akinjobi, also acknowledged “accumulated stress as well as other mental disorders” was one of the implications of troops’ involvement in war against insurgency.
Less than a year after the alarm raised by the Nigerian Army, DEPOWA has performed the ground-breaking and foundation stone laying ceremony of its PTSD Centre at the Muhammadu Buhari Cantonment, in Giri, Abuja.
At the event, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, in solidarity with his darling wife, passionately solicited support for the PTSD Centre of DEPOWA.
He commended DEPOWA for the initiative considering the involvement of military personnel in protracted operations across the country and other parts of the world to restore peace and security.
According to him, men and women of the armed forces remain the first beneficiaries of the establishment of this centre, saying the project would also be of high value to all Nigerians.
“Having realised that for us to perform optimally in the frontline, there has to be the awareness of safety for the women. Let me as Chief of Defence Staff appeal to you, our wives. We may have had several times been irrational in our homes and may have experienced some signs of PTSD.
“I want to say that your understanding by virtue of this project as to what perhaps may have led us to act the way we did in the past is something that we will stand ready to support you, knowing that you are partners and ensuring that we play our roles even in the front lines.
“I want to crave the indulgence of all invitees and those who may be watching to do well to support the armed forces of Nigeria and the police and other security agencies in reversing the security challenges in this country.
“It is in this light that I also want to appeal to you to make generous donations towards the establishment of this centre,” he said.
Irabor reiterated the loyalty of members of the armed forces to President Buhari in his quest to bequite a Nigeria that is safe to all Nigerians at the end of his tenure.
The Vice President of Liberia, Dr Jewel Howard-Taylor, commended the armed forces of Nigeria for the stabilization role they had continued to play in Africa especially the West African sub-region.
Howard-Taylor said the establishment of PTSD for the armed forces was a giant step toward addressing the enduring challenges of in-service and retired military personnel who experienced trauma.
She commended DEPOWA for taking the lead in addressing the effects of isolation that often manifested not only by the members of the armed forces but also among members of their families.
The Liberian vice president urged the Nigerian government to support the initiative and continue to be a leading example to African countries and beyond. She also urged other African countries to take a cue from the wives of the Nigerian military officers and provide a safe place for armed forces to get the care that they deserve.
Former President of Malawi, Dr Joyce Banda, said the establishment of a PTSD centre in Nigeria was an eye opener for her, challenging the entire Africa to learn from Nigeria for setting such an example.
Banda said that the countries in Africa had been in denial and ignored the fact that there was no PTSD on the continent which according to her had many young people suffer in silence.
According to her, the time is up, Nigeria has set an example today to do something about their sons and daughters who sacrificed so much for our safety and good life. She commended the women for taking the lead, adding that women had always taken the lead in development in the continent and across the globe.
On her part, Baroness Sandy Verma, Member, U.K House of Lords, said the centre would be the first of its kind in the African continent, urging global leaders across the world to recognise it as a necessity.
Verma said that whenever a nation sent its military personnel to defend them, they sent them off knowing that they might not come back or might come back injured. She said the world had failed to recognise for so long the visibility of mental health, trauma and being able to rehabilitate them back into life.
“That is why I was so pleased and so honored to be amongst this incredibly important, precious gathering here today because this marks a real turning point in how we will view post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It is incumbent on all of us who expect so much from our personnel that go out to defend our nation to ensure that this facility is going to be such a monumental reminder to the rest of the world on how much needs to be done around his traumatic stress disorder.
“I have worked tirelessly to support women and girls across the globe and I know the UK government is a close partner and friend of Nigeria.
“And I will reach out and ensure that those of us who have the position to be able to speak on this beyond the boundaries of Nigeria know that you need to be a sustainable, long-lasting institution, the world-class and State-of-the-art institution that will not just look after your personnel, but be an example for how other countries will need to do the same in their nations.
“So I will pledge. That’s all I will take back on behalf of businesses that I work with on a regular basis to look at how they can be supportive of this initiative. This requires a real long-term plan, it requires sustainable resources and the will of all of us who depend on all of our personnel to keep us safe,” she added.
The ground-breaking and foundation laying was performed by the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari.
*Mahmud is the Deputy Editor of PRNigeria and wrote in via: firstname.lastname@example.org.*
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