Over 60 Million Nigerians Suffer From Various Mental Ailments – Association Of Psychiatrists Says

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The Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN) has made a startling revelation about the cases of mental illness in Nigeria.

The association says more than 60 million Nigerians are suffering from mental ailments.

Prof. Taiwo Obindo, President of the association disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.

Obindo, who is also the Chairman, Faculty of Psychiatry, Nigeria chapter of the West African College of Physicians, said, “Mental healthcare is in a sorry state given that we have more than 60 million Nigerians suffering from various mental illnesses and the fact that only about 10 per cent of them were able to access appropriate care.

“We are left with more than 90 per cent who are unable to access care and this group is called the treatment gap for mental illnesses,” Obindo said

Obindo blamed it on various factors including the knowledge gap, saying people do not have appropriate information about the causes and treatment for mental illnesses.

Obindo identified factors hindering the management of mental illness in Nigeria to include myths and traditional beliefs, insufficient mental health facilities and an inadequate number of mental health professionals.

According to him, the few available mental health facilities are located in the city centres leaving a huge gap in rural areas.

“Knowing that 60 per cent of Nigerians live in the rural areas, they do not have access to appropriate care and have to travel long distances to access facilities,” Obindo said.

Speaking on the inadequate number of mental health practitioners, which he said fell short of the ratio recommended by the World Health Organisation, Obindo noted that several challenges push out the few available.

“The environment in which we practise, the security situation and the remuneration that people were given in the country tend to push them out.

“And then, of course, the pull factor from the developed countries where they tend to poach on the already trained medical practitioners in the country, particularly the psychiatrists,” he said.

He called on Nigeria to implement its Mental Health Policy on the practice of psychiatry, saying although the document was last reviewed in 2013, it had not been implemented.

According to him, one of the major components of the policy is its integration of mental health into primary healthcare, which will make treatment more accessible.

“The Mental Health Bill by the mental health stakeholders led by the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), in conjunction with the National Assembly and the Ministry of Health was yet to be assented to by the President.

“This is the most recent effort in 30 years,” he said.

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