Tackling spike in mental disorders
•How I survived traumatic disorder after being raped by my brother, six men, survivor narrates
•I was in coma for five weeks with two limbs amputated, says Irene
Medical experts have alerted to spike in mental health disorders, especially suicide in the country even as they recommended more investment in trauma care facilities as panacea to the menace.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria ranks seventh nation in the world with high caseload of mental illness and 15th in suicide-related cases and has less than 150 psychiatrists with a population of 200 million. It is estimated that fewer than 10 per cent of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need.
The Guardian reliably gathered that the huge contrast in Nigeria’s need for better psychiatric care and available resources was revealed in 2018 budget of N133 million, where only N13 million, which is less than 10 per cent of the money was released by the Federal Government.
A consultant psychologist and Chief Executive Officer of JARS Education Group, Prof. Akindotun Merino, told journalists that as a result of financial problems and lack of proper structure in the country, especially in Lagos State, to provide adequate care for the growing numbers of mental health patients, specialists in mental health in Nigeria are limited as many preferred to practise in other countries, thereby reducing the chances of trauma patients’ survival.
Speaking in the effect and cause of trauma and the need to proffer urgent solution, she said: “Trauma is passive in the community and when we talk about trauma, we are not just talking about somebody getting into an accident, we are referring to emotional trauma, high stress, because of the things that we do, rape, and high rate of depression. Traffic can cause high stress. Adverse childhood experiences, people who have experienced adversity in growing up. May be they did not live with their parents or their parents were abusive towards them, domestic violence in the family. In this nation, we have to start thinking about mental health.
“If some kind of trauma happen to one’s grandparents and it is not taken care of, studies show that it would move from one generation to another. The children will experience the pain they were not part of and this would go up to 14 generations.”
She said, according to WHO, one in four Nigerians are suffering from some sort of mental illness, which finds the country nowhere near equipped to tackle the problem. Merino stressed there are only eight federal neuropsychiatric hospitals in Nigeria and that among Nigeria’s health care workers; nine out of every ten doctors in Nigeria are seeking to leave the country, to find work in other countries.
Education consultant, Akin Benjamin, noted that with the growing abuse in schools, the state government should be more committed to raising African child in a more dignifying way in Lagos schools.
“There are a lot of cases of abuse in the education sector. Some teachers are traumatised and they transfer that to the children and we are working to stop that. In Lagos State, the ministry of education has asked all schools to have school councillors. But in reality, only government-owned schools are complying. How about private schools? It seems no one is monitoring. So how do we cater for children in school when they are going through trauma?
“Children need to be raised bold and assertive and not timid. Some children can’t even look into the eyes of their teachers to answer questions anymore because of how parents deal with them at home. Some parents contribute to the mental state of a child. Some will go to their schools and hand over a cane to their teachers to beat their children. Parents need to be told why their approach is not better,” he said.
Benjamin revealed that with the outbreak of COVID-19, school owners lost huge sums of money and are indebted and that within the last one year, there are school owners who are not back in business with a lot of them going through trauma.
Executive Director of Virgins Pride Foundation, Nkechi Odebiyi, advised the state government to establish wellness centres across the state to enable youths that are mentally challenged have easy access to medical practitioners.
She said: “If you have a wellness centre where youths or anybody can walk in to say ‘I am not acting the way I used to act, something is wrong with me’ and they have medical experts to talk to it will reduce the numbers of people who are walking on the streets. Many of the youths are coming from dysfunctional homes, nobody to talk to about how they feel and are not doing well at school, without anyone knowing what they are going through.
“But the problem we have is that sometimes you take the problem to church, where they will pray for you and quote the Bible and you still discovered you are feeling the same way and you may not be able to say it out. But in wellness centre that atmosphere will be there and people need to know that without medicine they can be healed from trauma.”
Meanwhile, a survivor, Eniola has revealed how seven men, including her brother, raped her and the healing process thereafter was not easy. She revealed that after six men raped her, her brother also raped her and got her pregnant, which made her traumatise.
Eniola said: “My dream was to study in the University but it was shattered when I was raped by six men. And at the time my brother raped me and got me pregnant, the dream of going to the University was married. He told my parents that I was pregnant and they turned against me. I got married to another mentally derailed man and eventually I had to suffer so much heartbreak. I was a total mess. I had no education, no job and I was trying to patch things up and hiding from people.”She said at a point she attempted suicide especially the time she saw her sisters doing well.
“I didn’t know what was wrong with me but I was constantly sad. When I see my friends in the University, I will hide my face and my husband who is a Masters degree holder also treated me badly, looked at me as a mess that he had married out of pity.
“And this made me to think of what to do with my life. There was a time I left my baby on the floor, picked up a sleepers and I was walking to nowhere until I got help by a doctor. I woke up one morning and went into Yaba hospital, to talk to a doctor who helped me heal.”
Another trauma patient who survived, Dr. Irene Olumise while sharing her experience advised youths to speak out and talk to people when depressed in order to avoid complications.
“I am bilateral amputee, which means both legs have been cut off below the knees. I hold a Ph.D in nutrition sciences. In my previous life I worked with United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) as a specialist for 15 years in three countries- Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt before I had a mid life experience. I lost both legs after 20 years of chronic diseases. Talk about trauma, the trauma of loosing both limbs was high”
She added that after her limbs were removed, she also had lung transplant and was in coma for five weeks and that although she was depressed when she came alive, the support and she received from people made her completely healed.
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