Nigerians With Mental Illness Outnumber Those Living With HIV/AIDS – Experts

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Stakeholders in the health sector have urged agencies of government and international donor organisations to pay more attention to mental healthcare.

They contended that those living with the condition were `significantly more’ than those living with HIV/AIDS.

The stakeholders made the remarks on Monday in Abuja at a summit organised by Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative (MHEI), an NGO, to mark World Mental Health Day.

Dr Olusola Ephraim-Oluwanuga, Chief Consultant Psychiatry at the National Hospital, said there were more people with mental health problems than those living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

She expressed concern that more attention was being paid to people living with HIV/AIDS than those with mental health.

She said that the devastating effects of insurgent attacks and other crises across the country had left several people in need of psychiatric evaluation.

She declared that though victims of these crises are often affected psychologically, little or no attention is given to provide them with health care services that would cater to their needs.

“Mental health is as important as physical health.

“But you find that agencies of government and international organisations focus more on catering to the physical needs of the people rather than mental needs.

“Nigeria has mental health policy, but this policy is not being implemented.

“This is not a document that needs reviewing because it is in line with global health practices,” Oluwanuga said.

Mr Haruna Wakarni, member, Board of Trustees, MHEI, expressed concern that `triggers of trauma’ are on the rise due to increasing spate of crises in the country.

He warned that as a result of the development, cases of mental health would continue to increase unless urgent measures to taken by the government to resolve the crises.

Mr Solomon Mamman, member, Association of Psychiatric Nurses of Nigeria, stressed the need for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), to work together to address issues of mental health.

He said that several people, especially those in rural communities, who are in need of psychological evaluation and support, could not access them due to the poor state of mental health institutions.

He decried the poor state of the institutions and lack of facilities and equipment for medical experts and psychiatrists to function.

“The world is going through crises and psychological trauma is precipitant to mental breakdown.

“We are eager to use our skills in helping the less privileged, but due to these constraints we are yet to achieve this,” Mamman said.

Mr Omotayo Hamzat, NPO, Essential Drugs and Medicines, World Health Organisation (WHO), reiterated the commitment of the organisation to support NGOs and Civil Society groups in addressing issues of mental health in Nigeria.

He urged the Federal Government to make building a mentally stable society one of its major priority.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Day is set aside to raise global awareness and advocacy on mental health.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Psychological First Aid.” (NAN)

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