It was a dream come through for Salem Ogunlowo as her debut book, Suffering and Smiling: A Nation’s Dilemma, was finally unveiled to the public after the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed it for months.
The event, which took place at Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, recently, was chaired by Reverend Wilson Badejo, former General Overseer of FourSquare Church. The book launch doubled as the birthday celebration of the author.
In her address of welcome, Mrs Ogunlowo said she felt highly honoured and validated by the presence of the guests from different walks of life. She traced her affection for the mentally challenged to a young age when she was drawn to them instead of running away from them, like her mates.
“At that time, I didn’t know that was going to be the area God was leading me into,” she said. She subsequently allowed the audience to watch a video clip on how far she had gone as a psychotherapist, including seeking a masters degree in the field at the age of 50 in the UK in a bid to function well.
She told the audience further about the reality of mental health concerns in the country, “We all know how the mental health situation in Nigeria is skyrocketing, and Covid-19 actually impacted it more. So I need everyone of you to partner with me in this project, and we can only do it if we talk more about it, which is actually my slogan: ‘Let’s talk about it,’” adding that it made no sense suffering and smiling about the condition, which, she said, could be reversed if discovered early.
Doctor Patrick Irabor, in his brief review, said one of the messages passed across by the author was: “Seek professional help early. You don’t need to suffer and be smiling.”
The Chairman of the occasion, Reverend Badejo, in his remarks, said the new book was very unique because of the prevalence of mental health issues in Nigeria. He recalled an encounter he had some time ago when he was residing in Ikeja GRA, Lagos, when he protested to a taxi man who almost hit him, only for him to pull off his shirt to fight him. “It was bad. I almost got there, but didnt get there,” he said, but commonsense prevailed.
He also recalled another experience where somebody was running from car to car breaking screens of vehicles in Lagos traffic, an incident he said, was a likely mental case problem. “That is why a book like this is recommended to you to, first, check yourself and, then, pass it to others to be able to handle their own situations and, again, to save society from calamity, which is very much surrounding each and every one of us,” he echoed.
The husband of the author, Captain Ogunlowo, told Daily Sun at the end of the launch, “I feel I have accomplished something in my life journey, because I met her when she was 18 after leaving the flying school. I married her and put her in school,” adding that he was happy that she had educated herself to masters degree level and could express herself in a book.
The author, who specialises in managing and supporting individuals, groups and organisations struggling with various levels of mental health issues, explained: “The book is a veritable tool in disseminating the existence of mental illness in our society, which is on the increase.”