20 million Nigerians suffering from mental disorder, illness – Reps

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No fewer than 20 million Nigerians are suffering various degrees of mental illness or disorder without undergoing psychiatric evaluation and care, the House of Representatives has said.

The lower chamber, while quoting World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, said that this amounted to 3 out of 10 Nigerians.

The House therefore mandated its Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health in a bid to improve mental health facilities around the country and further vigorously sensitise Nigerians on the need to take their mental health seriously.

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The House further tasked the Committee on Health Institution with exploring modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health.

The committees were directed to carry out the assignments within six weeks and respond to the House for further legislative action.

These were part of resolutions adopted following a motion titled, “Need to Address the Rising Cases of Mental Health in Nigeria” presented by Hon. Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State and considered by the House at plenary on Thursday.

Nnam-Obi, while moving the motion, noted that WHO considers mental health as a “state of wellbeing in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community”.

He explained that mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.

“According to the World Health Organisation statistics, over twenty million Nigerians are currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.

“3 out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other, presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatization against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalized standards for Psychiatric practice.

“The increase in cases of depression is traceable to multifactorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention.

“Nigeria has only 130 Psychiatrists with over 20 million citizens suffering from mental disorders.

“With the few functional Mental Health Facilities and inadequate mental health Practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.

“The statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the country will simply cause the situation to degenerate,” Nnam-Obi said.

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