In the US, where I teach, mental health problems are rife. In Nigeria, poverty is common but there’s no hopelessness. Why?

Nigeria, like most African nations, has been taught and dictated to since its independence, largely seen by the rest of the world as a receptacle for ideas rather than a generator of them. But is there something the world could learn from us? During the past few weeks in Nigeria, I’ve interviewed some 40 strangers whose lives, like those of most people in the country, were mired in want and suffering. Everywhere, people ambled about sweating, their skins wearing gradations of deprivation. Everywhere you turned there was a conspicuous lack of opportunities. Beggars walked about naked or in rags, bearing their ailments as banners to request help. Even those who were fully clothed – many looking flamboyant – seemed to be in urgent need of help, aching to achieve a certain dream.

He argued: 'If you lived in a world with no suffering, it will be an abnormality. That would make anyone miserable.'

Related: Focusing on schoolgirl abductions distorts the view of life in Nigeria | Chitra Nagarajan

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".

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