Let’s Talk About Valentine’s Day and Mental Health Implications


By Ebuka Ukoh

More than a week after Valentine’s, some people recorded invaluable memories, while others are just glad the celebration is behind them. Though essentially a day for lovers to remember, Valentine’s also can be a day to forget for the unloved. The only memories it usually holds for them are of lost love and loneliness with Johnny Drille’s TikTok sensation “You’re Just Single” as their only companion.

Besides melancholy, Valentine’s Day can have a more significant impact on mental health, particularly in the Nigerian context. One in 4 Nigerians suffers from mental health challenges, with only 10 per cent ever receiving treatment of any kind. With this backdrop, the sadness, depression, and anxiety that accompany a lover’s day for the unloved can be said to exacerbate the already negative emotional status quo in the best-case scenario, and in the worst, lead to increased suicide, and this connection is neither novel nor knotty. Different studies across the developed world have established a link between depression and special holidays. Though the different reference to increased suicide is more anecdotal than evidence; it is a subject worthy of more than a second glance.

So what can be a first step towards managing Valentine’s Day blues when they come around again? Well, a good place to start would be from ourselves. Apart from the lack of company, a prominent reason we feel down during Valentine’s is due to societal norms and expectations. The culture of being hitched or hooked up is almost traditional, especially in the African setting. And social media does not help matters with trends around February being primarily about love and Valentine, while also being an avenue that makes unrealistic comparisons only a swipe away. But for a moment, forget about finding a partner and focus on yourself. Spend quality time with yourself. Treat yourself to something you love. Get quality sleep, a hearty meal, or a gadget or gizmo you’ve been putting off ever since. You’d thank you for it.

Next, if you are tired of your company, step outside you. Besides your longing for companionship, you have the best set of the company that we Africans treasure the most; family -defined here beyond relations by bloodline. Reach out to a loved one, or a trusted friend if you’ve had enough of yourself. Share your time with them. You are most likely not the only one feeling blue. Check on your family and friends. A call or text can go a long way in lighting up someone’s day. If you’re out of options, go to your father’s house or find a nice mama put and eat hot jollof rice. Dem no go reject you for there.

You cannot love on empty. Commit to filling your cup – love yourself, care for yourself, and prioritize your well-being. The only sustainable kind of giving is out of the fullness of what you have and not what you don’t. Fill your cup however and whatever that means to you. Care for yourself. I am rooting for you. Root for yourself.

More on looking externally, rather than focusing your energies on failed love, choose to love the people you have around. Be intentional about it. You can start by asking your family and friends about themselves. Genuinely get to know more about them, draft a love calendar which would see you send caring texts to close friends and family in your networks, do special things they’d like, or plan hangouts with them. Buy gifts for your loved ones. Take an extra bottle of water for the police officer who is at the checkpoint in active service. Again, be intentional about it. In exercising your love energy towards people, you would learn more about how to love freely. Who knows? You might find “yourself” or “the one”.

Finally, always remember to seek professional help at the speed of concern. Your mental health is worth setting aside a budget for. If you or someone you know is overly depressed or having suicidal thoughts, you must seek treatment right away. Mental service providers can be expensive and inaccessible. However, I hear that organizations like Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) are bridging this gap by offering free counselling sessions via their chat/hotlines (+2348091116264), and affordable mental health services where needed. Whatever you do, take care of yourself. The world needs you.

In all, remember that Valentine’s is just a day to celebrate love. Do so by prioritising and loving yourself, and those dear to you. This includes your partner if you have one and maybe a stranger who needs to experience what it means to be loved. But if you don’t, in the words of Johnny Drille;
“You’re just single,
It’s not a crime,
You didn’t kill anybody,
You didn’t take a life”.

Live your life loving, and love will eventually find you.

Mr Ukoh, AUN alum, is a candidate for Master of Social Change at the Columbia School of Social Change in the US.


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