Traumatic experiences are a part of living and from research we are sure to experience such unpleasant events once during a lifetime with some having a more lasting impact- a touch like serious illness, the death of a loved one, or a life-altering accident. Each change affects us differently, bringing an array of feelings, strapping emotions; uncertainty, pains and sadness in our lives. One of such experiences is the #EndSARS nationwide campaign in Nigeria which began on Thursday 8 October 2020 after weeks of outrage of videos and pictures showing police brutality, harassment and extortion of innocent citizens.
The most tragic and traumatising of it came on 20 October, 2020, after Jide Sanwo-Olu the Governor of Lagos state announced a 24-hour curfew by 11:49am and to begin from 4pm that same day to control violence that erupted following the campaign. There were various complaints from various angles and mostly social media channels of the short time frame, hence some peaceful protesters decided to stay back to continue pushing their message of disbanding SARS at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos. As at 6pm men in Nigerian military uniforms shot peaceful unarmed protesters. Unarmed, peaceful citizens were massacred at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.
On 21 October 2020, shortly after the incident, various reactions of fear, panic attacks, anxiety and post traumatic disorder began to grip many with them sharing their thoughts and reaction on mostly twitter and various social media channels. Despite the calmness at the moment no one knows when this campaign against police brutality will end. However, one thing I am sure of is the mental health cost of the pre-meditated massacre of young and patriotic Nigerians at the Lekki Toll Gate will be with us for a long time, hence the need to build and rebuild resilience for future fights.
Research has shown that resilience is ordinary and not an extraordinary ability which individuals should demonstrate. Being resilient doesn’t suggest that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. In fact, the road to resilience is perhaps getting to involve considerable emotional distress such as that which we experience in the #EndSARS campaign. It’s not traits that some of us have or do not have. It involves thoughts and actions which can be learned and developed in anyone and there exist various ways of building our resilience.
Improve on relationships
The pain of traumatic events like the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre can cause self isolation, but it’s important to easily accept help and support from people who care about you because with empathetic and understanding support groups, it can remind you that you’re not affected alone by that unpleasant experience. In building resilience, there is a need to specialise in finding compassionate and trustworthy persons who authenticate your feelings, which can support the skill of resilience. Also, plan to prioritise genuinely connecting with people that care about you when building resilience in life which could be friends or family members
Transforming the narrative
Most times, we can’t talk ourselves out of these fears that kept us down; instead, we’ve to frankly confront those emotions. When unpleasant and undesirable events like this occur, we sometimes relive the event by going over the pain in our mind every single moment which also is a kind of cognitive spinning of the sweep, and it definitely wouldn’t push us toward healing and growth. One way of doing this is writing expressively which is one skill that can assist in moving forward by helping us gain new insights on the challenges in our lives. It involves exploring our deepest thoughts and feelings around it through writing continuously for 15-25 minutes about the matter to make us mentally stable again.
As mindfulness experts admonish us; our most excruciating thoughts are typically not about the past or the future: We regret and chew over what went wrong, or we get anxious about things we will. During mindfulness we learn to convey our attention to certain thoughts and memories which helps us to discover that things aren’t as bad and difficult as we imagined it. Practicing mindfulness at this time can bring us more into seeing ways of finding solutions to our problems and offers pathways for handling negative emotions concerning the massacre once they arise. That way, instead of getting consumed in fear, anger, or despair, we’ll overcome them more consciously and effortlessly.
Engaging social support networks
We can’t change the actual fact that this highly stressful and traumatizing event has happened, but we can change how we interpret and answer these events. Social support networks have proven to be important in building resilience because accepting help and support from people who care about you will strengthen resilience. Such as civic groups, faith-based organisations, or other local groups that provide social support and help with regaining faith and hope. But to benefit more, assisting others in these groups in their time of need can successively help build one’s own resilient behaviour.
Psychologist & Freelance Writer