The First Group of People I Trusted Took Advantage of My Vulnerability - CEO SMIF 'Oluseyi Elizabeth'

We had an exclusive interview with Mrs. Odudimu Oluseyi Elizabeth and this is what she has to say about herself, family, job and her foundation (STOP MENTAL ILLNESS FOUNDATION)

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1. What’s your name, please?

Ans. My name is Oluseyi Elizabeth  Odudimu (nee Ojajuni)

2. Where are you FROM?

Ans. I am from Ondo State, precisely from Itebukunmi, Ilaje ese odo local government. I live in the United Kingdom

3. Are you married or Single?

Ans. I am happily married with adorable children.

4. What is Stop Mental Illness Foundation all about?

Ans. Stop Mental Illness Foundation is an initiative established to provide Nigerians with compassionate preventative measures, advocacy services, treatment support and therapy of any form to manage mental illness, mental health education and free mental health care services to indigent persons and the public in GENERAL.

5. In What year did you establish SMIF and what inspired you?

Ans. Originally, Stop Mental Illness Foundation was instituted in 2018, the campaign begins with the sharing of articles, videos, and daily quotes on our formal websites www.smisnigeria now, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Throughout 2019, we mostly used the pragmatic framework, and awareness was elevated in the universities, national Youth Corps Camp and the local territories. By and large, we were opportune to address public stigma, reduced self-stigma and increase individual self- value through the use of motivating events, sports, workshop and games.

We also initiated the empowerment program to impart knowledge on help-seeking attitudes and attentiveness of treatment options to many Nigerians. Most importantly, conceptualization regarding mental ill-health was corrected, as many were exposed to the recognition of mental illness symptoms, when to seek medical support and how to sustain good mental health.

Fundamentally, SMIF obtained verification and certification from CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION in 2019.


6. How did you come about starting SMIF?

Ans. Inquisitiveness, love and passion to serve humanity prompted the establishment of SMIF. it troubles my mind because many Nigerians are trapped by the pit of mental illness and not able to access a well developed, and suitable intervention and life-changing evidenced strategies as the methodological procedure to tackle the stigma and reduction of behavioral factors, environmental factors and biological cause, which is simultaneously breaking the society down, preventing people from seeking help and denying our youth the profound opportunity to live a satisfactory life.

However, I strongly believe that knowledge and expertise can provide the individual with confidence and reshape mindset, which is the major reason I decided to turn my passion to care for humanity and even though I graduated from the Lagos state polytechnics, I summon up the courage to start afresh at Milton Keynes College, United Kingdom.

I begin to gain confidence in Milton College, where I acquire my diploma in health science in 2016 and a diploma in awareness of mental illness in 2017. In 2017, I gained admission to the University of Bedfordshire to study Mental Health Nursing and later switch to Health and Social Care in 2018.

The passion and confidence developed totally when I crossed my path with brilliant lecturers that helped me understand the sociological theory and how to use quantitative and qualitative data to ascertain facts, how to analyze statistics to discover the rate of people that are affected and approaches that can be used to tackle social problems lawfully. I was able to recognize the help-seeking barriers of south saran African in the global public health and marketing strategies I can use to distribute effective mental health information for the benefit of the community and encourage the government to increase mental health care systems and delivery using the bio-psycho-social model and holistic approach in a systematic way to meet the needs of many Nigerians living with mental disorders.

Nevertheless, I structured the concept note and outlined the strategic plans, which was forwarded to Mr. Solomon Ojajuni, my mentor, adviser, and one of the board of trustees; and he showed interest and supported me to prepare  the proposal, he also summons the attention of reputable people that key to the vision and we formed the board of trustees and embarked on modification of the organization's goal and practical framework at various intervention levels, after which we proceeded to register with the CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION (CAC)

7. Why and how do you develop an interest in establishing an organization relating to mental disorder?

Ans. Just as I said earlier, I developed compassion and a strong desire to serve humanity from childhood and as grew up, I form the habit of impacting lives positively with pleasure, I derived contentment in giving from the little I have and at my down moments, I usually hid my pains to lift peoples' emotions while they are experiencing a challenging time. Honestly, I just can’t withstand seeing people that are vulnerable dealing with pains or face with any kind of mistreatment from anyone.

14 years ago while on my way to board the flight to Spain, my initial place of residence, I saw a young man badly beaten, basically because he had psychotics episode and was being physically abused for suffering for brain illness, which can either be genetics, biological or perhaps environmental factors which were recently discovered as the major risk factors triggering the onset of mental illness in Nigeria society. I cried and determined to gain comprehensive knowledge and qualifications to advocate for people with mental illness and of course I also needed to acquire the essentials understanding of the illness itself, to be able to change attitude and behaviors to shift social norms within the Nigeria community. Unfortunately, it took me more than 10 years before I was able to achieve and fulfilled my aspiration. like every other woman, I stayed home for 10 years raising my family, but I never stop acquiring skills through digital schooling, checking through the university of Bedfordshire mental health nursing course because of their affirmative reputation.

Providentially, my family relocated to the United Kingdom in 2016 and that was how I started pursuing my line of career.

 8. We heard you are Based in the United Kingdom ... How do you Reach out to victims nor recruit people and work in Nigeria?

Ans: The first group of people I met took advantage of my vulnerability because I was new in the system and that experience trained me to be professionally and technically competent and arrived with certain movements such as the introduction of the code of conduct, letter of engagement and everything concerning the organization was placed on the legal binding.

We recruit our team from different platforms and I developed an efficient, accessible and continuous network with them, I also strengthen my relationship with them and these motivate them to operate smoothly to perfect and achieve our targets.

 9. What are the things you have been doing to help or support Nigerians in maintaining good mental health?

Ans. In the past, our organization has shape Nigerians perception of the importance of therapeutic intervention, helped many youths to gain direction to pursue and fulfill their career, as well as diverting our youth’s attention away from substance abuse as means of coping strategies and engaging them in more rewarding activities. We were opportune to provide Nigerians with an empowerment on ways to tackle mental health problems, put an end to the stigma preventing people from taking decisions that can positively affect their lives. Well, on daily basis, we provide Nigerians with psychiatric therapy improvement, compassionate preventative measure, mental health education, and referral for mental health care services to indigent persons; and we also supply information and advocacy services, and recognition of mental illness risk factor, as well as management of mental disorders for indigent persons and the public in general. During the coronavirus lock-down, we supported many Nigerians to balance up their emotions and we provided daily information through many media platforms. Financial assistance was rendered, we helped many to reduced psychological pains, rescue suicidal attempts, address substance abuse and several interviews were conducted to get familiar with peoples’ psycho-social needs.

10. Are Nigerians Responding? 

Ans. So far, we are privileged to have been able to change the conceptualization of many Nigerians regarding mental illness, stand as a voice to people with a mental impairment that are faced with stigmatization, we have been educating the cooperate organization and a few people in power on ways and how to promote equity in mental health services in Nigeria community. On the other side, finance has been a major step back.

Honestly, My husband's money, support from a few people and predominantly my resources are the merely financial sources, which is causing financial constraint and preventing the organization from meeting peoples’ needs, especially in getting medications, rehabilitative treatment and other interventions that are designed to increase capacity levels.

11. How do you combine both being a mother and the CEO of SMIF?

Ans: Before embarking on the journey, I built my strength, emotional and psychological well-being because I knew that I will need them to manage and restore my mental ability often. I work on my physical sensation and I have mentors that regularly assess and evaluate my conduct, they assist in improving the level of my resilience and my husband stand as the utmost support system.

Sincerely, it has been so challenging muddling through the university, writing of articles and creation of the daily quotes graphics that we share daily on the social media handles and our website. I am trying hard to manage the motherly roles with the children's academic activities, and the other essential needs, as well as fulfilling my responsibilities as a wife and part-time employee. I experienced a miscarriage as a result of accumulated stress and painful encounter with a scammer. To the glory of God, I am now blessed with many volunteers that execute the organization’s action plans and they are reliable.

12. How many states in Nigeria do you cover?
Ans. So far, we have taken our practical campaign to 14 states. By the special grace of God’s and maximum support from Nigerians and the government, we are hoping to cover the whole 36 states in the next two years.
13. Where is your head office located?
Ans. Our head office is at House 4, E Close, 14 Road, Efab City Estate, Lokogoma (ABUJA, FCT).
14. Where do you see yourself and your organization in the next few years?
Ans. Hopefully, we aspire to carry out the organizations' strategic plans to meet the goals and objective of which the organization is formed and gracefully stand as a reputable organization that provides Nigerians with relevant accessible services and excellent quality of support for all people.
15. Has the corona Virus/Pandemic affected you in any way?
Ans. Of course, yes! There is no doubt that everyone is affected by the Corona Virus Pandemic. I am a survivor of Corona Virus, even on my sickbed, I dedicated my time to go live on social media, just to encourage people and enlighten them on how to maintain positive psycho-social well-being. being a person that loves to take advantage of every situation and my strength lies in lifting others and that’s the reason I usually bounce back when I fail or face with any kind of challenges because I have trained my mind to withstand every great force that may cross my path.
16. Do you intend to take SMIF Nationwide in time to come?
Ans. Absolutely! Presently, we are working on incorporating the organization to the European Union's system and the process is on in the United Kingdom and Spain.
17. How do you get in contact with the victims attempting to take his or her life?
Ans: We get most of them through a referral from friends, family and some contact us directly by filling the volunteers’ clinical forms on our website.
Amazingly, the organization is blessed with a dedicated team and medical partners that usually respond quickly to the victims' needs.
18. What are you presently working on to upgrade and improve SMIF?
Ans. we are planning to undertake television, and radio broadcasts and programmes on mental health care and coping strategies for affected persons, and to establish a network with organizations of like minds that share the same values and vision.
19. Do you have a brand ambassador canvassing for SMIF online?
Ans. Yes! We signed Mrs. Adeyoju Kehide as our first ambassador on the 20th of July 2020 and she has been a substantial human resource to the organization.
20. Is your husband in full support of your Foundation?
Ans. My husband is my number one supporter, he always gives his full support to everything that will bring joy to my heart. I must confess that I wouldn’t have been able to bring the mental picture of the whole concept to implementation without my husband’s endorsement, moral support, encouragement and continuous financial backup.
21. What is your future aspiration regarding the organization?
Ans. We are planning to invent recreational centers where mental illness patients can meet up with patients of similar disorders, have confidential discussions with the mental health professionals, get support and therapy of any form. Additionally, we also aim to set aside likely facilities for people with good mental health, where they can be a privilege to gain management techniques that will help them sustain good mental well-being. We are also planning to collaborate with psychiatric hospitals, mental health professionals and other non-medical professionals to form regular social and medical research as a procedure to assist in the prevention of mental illness risk factors and treatment options within the Nigeria community. We hope to make a significant shift with the help of mental health professionals both at home and abroad.
22. And what is your advice to Nigerians?
Ans. Within two years of serving humanity and in the course of my independent research, I discovered that employment status, financial obscurity and lifestyle interactions with behaviors were associated with mental ill-health and the consequences are suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal attempts and self-harm in adults between the age of 16–64 years, especially among men. 66.4% of Nigeria students had made a suicide attempt while the prevalence of the mental disorder is higher in women and many of the children are living with a mental disorder, which indicates that the larger population of Nigerian are in great need of adequate support to enhance their cognitive functionality, as this is related to decision making.
We all have our respective roles to play, as individual, community and the government.
I implore our government to please be responsive to mental health needs, and possibly create adequate mental health resources such as medication, psychological therapy and free services for easy access, as a way to sustain health equity and put an end to social inequality, inadequate social amenities and low standard decision making, which are the prototype that can help Nigerians gain strength and scheme to stop violence, terrorism, kidnapping, political obscurity, insecurity, economic unsteadiness, poverty, unemployment and substance abuse.
The entire community should please grow appropriate manners and compassionate care towards mental ill-health patients, rather than judging them.
 As an individual, you have to be self-motivated and be confident enough to seek professional support because that is the healing procedure to the enhancement of your mental capacity.


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