Stakeholders blame rise in mental disorders on anti-people policies
A consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Dr. Okwudili Obayi, has blamed the increasing rate of mental health challenges in Nigeria on spate of anti-people policies imposed on the populace.
Obayi made the remark, in a lecture titled, “Changing the Narratives in Mental Health, The Role of the Media”, presented during a one-day seminar organised by the Methodist Church Nigeria and Amaudo Integrated Mental Health Foundation in partnership with Abia State Government, Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu and Amaudo UK, for media practitioners drawn from Abia and Imo states at Amaudo Rehabilitation Centre Itumbauzo in Bende Local Government Area (LGA) of Abia State.
Obayi attributed some other causes of increasing mental illnesses, especially presently, to increasing social and economic hardships like inflation, insecurity, unemployment, fuel subsidy removal, hunger, discrimination, kidnapping, robbery among others, which can trigger mental illnesses.
He said some symptoms of mental ill-health include: mental stress, depression, and hearing of strange voices, drug abuse, Internet addiction and excessive prayers. Obayi told Nigerians to check out on the people manifesting these symptoms and report them for medical help just as he enjoined journalists to reduce stress as much as possible and be cautious of words they use in reporting mental health issues to guard against stigmatisation.
Obayi delivered the lecture on behalf of the Medical Director of Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital Enugu, Prof. Monday Igwe.
He said the seminar was aimed at educating the media practitioners on basic mental health issues and their role in creating awareness for human rights-based mental health care in Nigeria, addressing the poor mental health knowledge, negative socio-cultural and religious perceptions and interpretations of the subject that promote stigmatisation and discrimination, as well as reducing help-seeking behaviours in mental health among the population.
According to Obayi, journalists have a high tendency to face job-related mental health issues that include anxiety, depression, sleep and eating disorders, burnout, post-traumatic stress, among others.
He explained that those factors are influenced by the areas and times of press coverage like conflicts, terrorism, climate/natural disasters, murders/killings, rape accidents among others.
Rising from the seminar, the participants urged state governments to domesticate and implement the new Mental Health Act enacted by the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which provides for the establishment of Mental Services Department to promote and protect the right of persons with intellectual, psychological or cognitive disabilities in addition to providing for enhancement and regulations of mental services in the country.
Noting that there was inadequate knowledge of mental health by media practitioners, they recommended regular seminars/training on mental health issues and for media organisations “to design and dedicate adequate time to publicising mental health issues in their various platforms to enhance public awareness and sensitisation.”
They commended the seminar organisers for putting up the programme at a time many Nigerians are grappling with the harsh economic challenges occasioned by anti-people policies that are capable of triggering mental health concerns among the populace and also the management of the Foundation for the huge humanitarian services they are rendering.
They called on the government to urgently address issues such as lack of access roads, electricity and other infrastructural deficits in the area as a way of encouraging the foundation.
Director of the Centre, which is run by the Methodist Church – Nigeria, Reverend Kenneth Nwaubani, sought support and assistance for the Centre in the areas of funding, logistics, infrastructure deficits, especially repairing of the only access road from Mbukwa to Bende LGA headquarters, including publicising its activities to the world.
The Centre (Mental Home), which was founded in 1989 by one Miss Roselyn Colwil, a Scottish nurse after she resigned as a welfare officer at the Uzuakoli Methodist Leprosy Centre for the care, rehabilitation and resettlement of the mentally-challenged or mentally-ill persons, receives supports from ‘Amaudo UK’, Abia State government and some stakeholders.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.