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Post COVID-19: Experts fear surge in mental health illness

By NAN
27 November 2022   |   7:03 am
Experts in mental health have called on stakeholders and governments to put in place measures to forestall the looming mental health problem that might arise after the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

[FILES] Mental Health

Experts in mental health have called on stakeholders and governments to put in place measures to forestall the looming mental health problem that might arise after the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

They made the call in Ibadan on Saturday at the Advancing Community Access to Equitable COVID-19 Response programme.

It was organised by Asido Foundation, in partnership with Oxlade Consulting, and supported by the Open Society of West Africa (OSIWA).

The Founder of Asido Foundation, Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, said at the Stakeholders Engagement Feedback on Community Resilience, that it was very clear to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations that beyond COVID-19 as an infection and pandemic, there was a lot of mental health consequences.

Abdulmalik said the consequences were from anxiety to depression, an increasing rate of drug use, and an increasing rate of suicide, among others.

“COVID has caused a lot of mental health problems over time and it continues to cause it.

“So, we need to pay attention to the mental health consequences of COVID. We need to prepare.

“COVID-19 has not gone as we are dealing with after shot; people lost their jobs they are not happy.

“They are battling with frustration and economic challenges and many are wallowing in the fringes of suicide thought and hopelessness,” he said.

AbdulMalik, a Consultant Psychiatrist, stressed the need for attention to mental health consequences in society.

“We need to be aware of it and prepare as well as intervene and encourage people that there is hope; they shouldn’t give up, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“Our religious leaders, governments, and the media need to keep encouraging people and keep supporting one another until we can finally say we have put this behind us,” he said.

Abdulmalik said that the programme was to identify positive psychosocial community resilience stories from across Nigeria.

“It is to see what the lessons learned from how people came together during the COVID-19 pandemic to support one another and encourage one another for the future.

“Following the call for stories sent across Nigeria, we had over 100 stories and selected the top three stories from Calabar, Zaria, and Ibadan, which was turned into a documentary,” the expert said.

Commenting, the Oyo State Commissioner for Health, Dr Bode Ladipo, admitted that mental health was not given priority during the pandemic, saying that it was one of the lessons learned going forward.

Ladipo, represented by Dr Femi Akinyode, the State Epidemiologist, said, “The pandemic made us realise that some specialists were in short supply such as social workers and mental health specialists.”

Ladipo stressed the need for emergency funds and improving communication with patients and their families as well as media advocacy during a future pandemic.

Also, Dr Muideen Babatunde, the Executive Secretary, of Oyo State Primary Health Board, said the state had set up desks for mental health in all the 33 local government areas of the state.

Babatunde, represented by Mrs Funmilayo Abodunrin, a mental health expert, said that the state government would continue to educate people on mental health.

In her remarks, Mrs Ronke Bello, the President, of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, called for psychosocial support to reduce emotional impact.

On the lessons learned from a pandemic, Dr Ideyonbe Eseile, the President, of the Association of Resident Doctors, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said that the loss of jobs and inability to get jobs, and lack of food for families still persisted, were indications of a looming mental health problem.

Eseile decried the use of data from developed countries as a model for government intervention and policies which do not reflect the realities in the local context of Nigeria.

In her remarks, Ms Adedayo Ige, a Humanitarian and Programme Manager at Oxlade Consulting, said the programme was targeted at individuals and communities on how they built resilience during COVID-19.

Ige said, “We realised that in Nigeria, we do not have a lot of data, so instead of us relying on developed countries for data, this is one of the ways we can get data and prevent recurrence in the future.”