From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, George Akume, has explained why more Nigerians are experiencing mental health challenges in recent months.
The minister, at the launch of a mental health programme, called: ‘The mind wheel project’, in Abuja, yesterday, linked the high rate of mental health issues such as depression, fear and anxiety to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
“According the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every four Nigerians, comprising about 50 million people are suffering from one form of mental illness or the other. The pandemic alone has led to an increase in mental health concerns, especially fear, worry, anxiety and depression. This presupposes that many people in Nigeria or our friends, colleagues or family members are experiencing mental challenges directly or indirectly,” he said.
Convener of Sunshine Mind Wellness, Aisha Bubah, said the problem has shored up the intake of hard drugs.
Bubah, who is also a psychologist, suggested that the number of psychologists should be increased from the estimated 200 professionals attending to over 200 million Nigerians to well over one million.
“Drug abuse has become very rampant in our society, cutting across all genders and age ranges. It is the bane of building a healthy, prosperous and happy society. An estimated 20 to 30 percent Nigerians are believed to suffer from mental disorders with WHO estimating that less than 10 percent have access to treatment.
“There is an estimated number of around 200 psychiatrists to the over 200 million Nigerian population, with a low figure of other mental health workers like psychologists, social workers, lay counsellors.
“This makes it hard for Nigeria to meet demands if we had everyone seeking access to mental healthcare,” he said.
On the project and functionality of the helpline, she said: “We started The Mind Wheel project during the first lockdown, by forming a team of selfless volunteers and offering free counselling sessions to Nigerians struggling with their mental health as a result of the impact of the pandemic and persons living with mental health conditions who were unable to access mental health services due to restrictions from the lockdown.”