From Gyang Bere, Jos
There is growing concern over the increasing number of people battling with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in Nigeria. Medical experts and communication strategists have linked the high rate in the country to disturbing insecurity and harsh effects of COVID-19, which displaced several persons from their jobs and destroyed other means of livelihoods.
World Health Organisation (WHO) disclosed that one in every four Nigerians, about 50 million people, suffers from one form of mental illness or the other. It was learnt that the coronavirus pandemic alone has led to an increase in diverse mental ailments.
Worried by the unhealthy development and harping on the need to complement orthodox medicine, a health expert at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr. Aishatu Yusha’u Armiya’u, has advised the Federal Government to consider the potency of traditional and spiritual healers in curbing mental health issues in the country.
Armiya’u, while presenting a paper, titled “The Nigerian Mental Health and Psychosocial Support System (MHPSS), on emergency: COVID-19 and implications,” funded by Roxa Luxemberg Stiftung (RLS) and implemented by Charis Healthcare and Community Support Initiative, Jos, Plateau State, blamed the increasing rate of mental issues on insecurity and COVID-19.
Part of the two-day mental health awareness programme, “Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic: The Nigerian psychological system,” had 57 participants who logged in through webinar from Nigeria and beyond; they also joined in proffering solutions to the health challenges.
“Government should explore the possibility and potency of building relationships with traditional and spiritual healers to where appropriate, which can be implemented in the country in the light of the role they all play in mental health management.
“Broader determinants of mental health also need to be addressed, such as ensuring sources of livelihood for those affected or displaced; rebuilding their communities and infrastructure, providing social support for survivors and those with psychological problems and early conflict resolution.”
The expert lamented that between January 2013 and January 2014, 9.5 million people were estimated to have been affected by natural and man-made disasters, which were compounded by the outbreak of COVID-19.
Armiya’u advised that the media should be thoroughly engaged in community awareness on mental health issues to bring to the limelight the suffering of the survivors.
A communication strategist, Adah Francis Abah, who also presented a paper, lamented that Nigeria was lagging behind in the required number of health personnel to manage patients with mental ailments.
He said the country could boast of fewer than 150 psychologists, with even fewer neurologists and psychiatrists.
“Another challenge confronting Nigeria is brain drain, resulting in the country losing its newly trained professionals who are in search of greener pastures to western countries.
“In comparison to other countries in Africa such as South Africa, Egypt and Kenya, Nigeria is lagging behind in the area of mental health personnel,” Abah observed.
Also, a clinical psychologist and programme officer with Charis Healthcare and Community Support Initiative, Henry Ojanya, said the programme was aimed at sensitizing Nigerians and liberating them from the disturbing health issues caused by the pandemic.
Ojanya, speaking on “Beyond COVID-19 pandemic: Emergency preparedness for another pandemic; mental health implications and responsiveness to holistic care”, described Charis as an organization that provides mental health services to disadvantaged individuals, families and communities by empowering them to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives and become agents of change in their communities.
He stated that stakeholders must take deliberate steps towards poverty eradication, access to basic services such as power supply, potable water, sanitation, inclusive education, gender equality and a lot more.
The project coordinator, ECWA Eye CBM-BMZ and head of the Department of Ophthalmology, Bingham University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Mercy Adejoh, who also presented a paper, enunciated the devastating effects of mental health and called for swift action among stakeholders.