…Says 9,000 persons mentally ill in region
From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
It was a day for medical experts and other relevant stakeholders in psychiatry to brainstorm on the way forward in the South-East geo-political zone.
They had gathered at the Imo Concorde Hotel, Owerri at the instance of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu to begin the advocacy and awareness for mental health campaign for the zone.
The one-day mental health summit was the first in the series approved by the Federal Government for the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, to make people of the region become aware of mental ill health and to be in the position to give instant help to victims.
Called for the workshop are state commissioners for health, their permanent secretaries, directors of primary health in the states and psychiatric doctors.
Welcoming the participants, the Medical Director of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr Jojo Onwukwe, disclosed that the South-East region recorded 9,200 reported cases of mental illness in the last five years.
According to him, the upsurge was as a result of the increased abuse and consumption of hard substances.
He also said that his hospital had received an average of 2,000 new patients per year in last five years, adding that the trend was very alarming.
Dr Onwukwe noted that the reported cases excluded the thousands of other such persons who were taken to healing homes across the South-East which record is not available.
He, therefore, said that the Owerri meeting was to create awareness for the community mental health care programme of the Federal Government, which includes the building of primary mental health care to be attached to primary health care centres in each of the three senatorial zones of states in the South East.
He said that already the projects have been captured in the 2006 Budget by the Federal Government.
Dr Onwukwe said that the essence of the community mental health care programme was a better approach to mental ill health treatment as it is aimed at treating patients within their locality, pointing out that research has shown that the rate of recovery was faster when patients are treated in their locality than crowding them up in a hospital where in most cases adaptation was very difficult.
His words: “We have been receiving an average of 2,000 new patients in the Neuropsychiatric Hospital and we discovered that there are disadvantages in crowding patients up in the hospital and this new patients have to re-adapt to the conditions in the hospital and some of them have not slept in the hospital before. Therefore, its takes them about two weeks to adapt before talking of recovery; so now it is better to treat people in their localities because it is more cost effective and better for those suffering from mental health as the majority of them are in their communities”.
Also speaking at the event, Dr Ejike Oji, who is one of the organizers of the workshop said that the zonal meeting was to create the necessary awareness among directors of health services, the executive directors of primary health care agencies, and other relevant stakeholders in the South-East.
“This is an advocacy and awareness programme and that is why women were also invited from each of the five states from the South-East because they are central to passing this message to the communities.
“So, with the establishment of mental health programme in primary health care centres that will bring all health care services under the same roof which is a plus for the people.
“So, this meeting is solely to create the awareness of the new programme because most times only those who are well to do can bring their wards or relations to the Nueuropsychiatric Hospital in Enugu,” adding that now it was the intention of the Federal Government to bring this service to the doorsteps of the people.