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Smoking india hemp, excessive alcohol cause mental ailments, says Akinwotu

By Paul Adunwoke   |   16 October 2016   |   5:20 am


Dr. Olusegun Akinwotu is a Senior Registrar, in Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital (FNPH), Yaba, Lagos. To mark the 2016 World Mental Health Day last week, he gave out information to educate the public on lifestyles that could lead to mental illness and how to avoid such. PAUL ADUNWOKE reports.

What are the predisposing causes of mental illness?
Predisposing and environmental factors that may lead to mental illness include a family history of mental illness, adverse conditions in early years, such as, head trauma, infections affecting the brain, early separation from parents, poor living conditions, rape, war, famine, low socio-economic status, drug abuse, personality disorder, unemployment, lack of a spouse, loss of close relatives or friends, loss of a job or loss of properties, national economic hardship, such as economic recession, kidnapped victims and terrorism among other factors. Developing mental illness involves interplay of these factors such as genetic predisposition and adverse life events.

What are the signs that a patient is close to developing mental illness?
The signs that a patient is tending towards developing mental disorder, include sudden or gradual distinct change in behaviour, poor sleep, easy irritability, deterioration in quality of academic or work performance, decline in hygiene, lack of concern about their progress and achievement, as well as, lack of concern about potentially, dangerous situations.

Therefore, increase in the use of psychoactive substances, such as; cannabis, alcohol and cocaine, including absenteeism from school or work with no tenable excuse, should be taken seriously. All these lifestyle habits indicate that a patient is close to developing mental illness.

What can family members or guardians do to identify a mental case?
Family members should pay attention to everyone and take note of any change from their regular pattern of behaviour, especially adults, whose personalities are already formed. They should listen to their speech to determine if it’s irrelevant, becoming excessive or reduced. They should also observe their sleep pattern, appetite, actions and motivating factors. Mental patients can become paranoia and due to this, refuse to eat meals cooked at home.

What is next step to take before full-blown mental case?
It is advised that they seek the attention of a mental health specialist. This would aid early identification and intervention, which is a good prognosis for better management outcome.

What lifestyle habits can limit or eliminate mental ailment?
These include, observing adequate sleep, eating balanced healthy diets, physical exercise, self-improvement through skills acquisition or knowledge, improvement of interpersonal relationships, associating with people that will bring out the best in you, for instance, religious or social groups, adequate rest, taking vacations and spending quality time with family and friends. Having a positive outlook about life is also essential.

It is imperative to avoid drinking excessively, avoid smoking cigarettes and India hemp (marijuana), avoid risky and dangerous behaviours, regulate salt, fatty foods and sugar intake, as these may precipitate physical illnesses that may predispose one to mental disorder. Also, carrying out regular medical check up will reduce the risk of developing mental illness.

What should be society’s response to mental health patients?
I would like to say that mental illness is a medical condition like other chronic illnesses. It is treatable, and individuals, who present in the mental health facility, can live normally and attain optimal quality of life. Once there is any suspicion that the symptoms look like that of mental disorder, please seek a psychiatrist’s intervention early.

They can be taken to Federal neuropsychiatric hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), among other hospitals across the country.

Do not stigmatise anyone diagnosed with mental illness, and do not look down on them. They are human beings like you and me, and they deserve adequate specialist care and attention, because they do not know what is happening to them. Many of them are not the cause of their ailments. So, there is need for family members, and the public to show love to people with mental illness.

What do you think should be the role of government in impacting positively on the lives of people living with mental disorder?
I want to use this medium to appeal to the Federal Legislators to expedite the passage of the Mental Health Bill, to facilitate easy access to mental health treatments by these clients, as this would help the country to reduce the number of people living with mental illness in the streets. The bill would enable government take care of every person with mental illness in the country.

When we have the Bill, we will be able to do a lot. Citizens can benefit better, when those policies are instituted and implemented. But, without signing the health bill, it will be difficult for Nigeria to achieve this. We are talking about 100 per cent health coverage and easy accessibility to health.

We believe that Nigeria has enough resources to fund health, but if this bill is not signed into law, the funding will be difficult. If it is signed into law, there will be budgetary provision to support it and allocation will be made.

So, we hope that in the nearest future more allocation will go to the healthcare sector, as well as, more training of personnel, and adequate health facilities to ensure that Nigerians are better catered for.

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