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Stakeholders proffer solutions to mental health challenges


mental Health

Worried by the high burden of mental health disorder in the country, the stakeholders in the health sector have stressed the need to tackle poverty, joblessness and hardship being experienced Nigerians in order to bring the problem to an end.

Speaking in Abuja, on Monday, at the Mental Health Action Committee and Stakeholders Workshop with Theme” Strategies to Revitalise Mental Health Service in Nigeria”, the Chairman, Mental Health Action Committee, Federal Ministry of Health, Prof. Okoye Gureje, said there is need to tackle poverty, joblessness among Nigerians as some of these have ways of affecting the mental health.

He said: “We need to think in terms of promotion, prevention and then we need to think in terms of treatment. Let talk about prevention; we all know that some of the thing happening in the country constitutes very potent reasons for people to become psychologically… for example the situation in the north east where we have an insurgency, it is one area where people can expect people’s health both mentally and physically to be affected.

We need to do things about the social determinants of health, things like poverty, lack of jobs, hardship and all of those issues that cause a lots of depressed especially chronic distress for people.

Some of the things they need to do for mental health are also similar to what they need to do for physical health like life style issues, not consuming substances that can be injurious to the body. All of these things that can be beneficial to the physical health they can benefit the mental health.”

He lamented that Nigeria in terms of treatment of mental challenges has very minimal human resource. Gureje observed that Nigeria with a population of 192 million have about two hundred psychiatrists which is about one psychiatrist to a million people.

“In the other part of the world for example Western Europe we ten psychiatrists for hundreds thousands people. So, you see that and it mean we are not going to have enough sufficient psychiatrists for a long period of time. But that is not the problem the issue is that we should use the resources that we have and there are ways in which that can be done,” he added.

According to Gureje, “We have in a situation whereby we do not have sufficient mental Heath resources especially in terms of specialists chronicle psychiatric, psychiatrists and social workers. We don’t have anything close to they should have.

Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Abdullaziz Mashi Abdullahi, who was represented by the Senior Technical Assistant to the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Mfon Bassey, said the meeting was necessary to improve the health of Nigerians.

“It is in light of this that it is imperative to convene this meeting as a national strategy to address Mental Health problems in Nigeria towards the improvement of the overall health of the country.”

Abdullahi noted that a policy for mental health services delivery was developed with several key provisions of the policy, including establishing a body at the Federal Ministry of Health to focus on Mental Health issues.

“Some of the pertinent issues is how to address and dialogue with stakeholders on the burden of mental health, intimate them on the Mental Health policy, identify ways to fast track the enactment of the Mental Health Act and modalities for resuscitating the National mental health action committee for coordinating the activities of various stakeholders on mental health and Psychosocial supports in Nigeria.”

The Director, Public Health represented by the National Coordinator, Non-Communicable Disease, Dr. Nnenna Ezeigwe, said: “In Nigeria, an estimated 20 per cent–30 per cent of our populations are believed to suffer from mental disorders, which is a very significant number. Considering the current economic situation in the country, the above statistics are damning and in the light of the recent suicidal episodes recorded in parts of Lagos (which are obviously a tip of the iceberg), it forces a rethink in our general attitudes to mental health and questions our current maintenance of the status quo.”

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