ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s Emeka Adindu says salsa saved his life.

Growing up in a country with deep-rooted stigma against mental health issues, Adindu, 35, found solace in the popular Latin dance as he battled abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts.

He now helps others do the same – with free dance classes in the capital city Abuja.

“Salsa was the only thing that could make me smile all those days that I was battling, fighting with my demon,” he says.

A 2021 UNICEF report shows one in six Nigerians aged between 15 and 24 are depressed, anxious or have other mental health issues. Medical professionals say the stigma associated with mental health in Nigeria’s culturally conservative society makes matters worse.

Adindu says he was able to overcome his sadness and find joy by keeping himself occupied with salsa, a little-known dance form in the African country.

“This will be my gift to the world, by giving out love… and expressing happiness.”

At one of Adindu’s sessions, entrepreneur Princess Solomon unwound by swinging and tapping her feet to the peppy music.

“It has helped me relieve stress… I have made new friends, and the dance keeps me fit,” she says.

(Reporting by Abraham Achirga, Vining Ogu and Angela Ukomadu, Writing by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Devika Syamnath)

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