Mental illness, also called mental health disorder refers to a wide range of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.
In Nigeria, over 40 million people are suffering from mental health disorders, says professor of public health and chairman, Lagos State Primary Healthcare Board, Prof. Akin Osibogun, adding that the situation is made worse with the current insecurity in the country, stigmatisation, denial, discrimination, lack of understanding.
Osibogun said, “Recent estimates suggest that not less than 40 million Nigerians have one mental issue or the other and we have less than 200 psychiatrists in the country at the last count. I honestly don’t know how many are left without treatment, after the current wave of brain drain.”
He however called on stakeholders to join hands together to make the needed noise about mental health disorders. “Stakeholders must join forces together to tackle the menace in the country,” he adds.
The managing director, Pinnacle Medical Services, Dr Maymunah Kadiri tells me that 90 per cent of the reasons why Nigerians visit the doctors, pharmacists and drug shops is due to stress.
“If we don’t build a culture of compassion, stigma and discrimination will continue for a very long time”, says Kadiri, while noting that no one has absolute immunity when it comes to mental health.
She urged Nigerians to de stigmatise mental health disorders. “This must start from our homes, institutions and most importantly our schools. We can train teachers to help de stigmatise mental health disorders,” she adds.
The managing director also advocated that health insurance policy should cover mental health illness treatment, so that people suffering from the condition will easily seek for help, knowing that they don’t have to pay from their pockets.
The president, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm. (Dr.) Sam Ohuabunwa, while responding to my question on mental health at a press briefing recently in Lagos, said a lot of Nigerians are suffering from mental health disorders due to economic hardship.
The impact of COVID-19 on human health has been severe, with an increasing number of fatalities, Ohuabunwa said, adding that with the spread comes economic hardship due to the preventive strategies adopted and movement restrictions imposed in Nigeria as a result of the outbreak which has generated dissension among the poor masses that hustle daily to eke a living.
“There should have been a way of providing for the poor masses when you lock them down. Statistics available showed increase in mental health issues, domestic violence and suicide during the lockdown,” he added. The PSN president however advocated that mental health should be an integral part of primary health care, given that some of the non-pharmaceutical measures adopted to contain the spread of the virus impacted people’s mental health.