Recent disclosure by Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Babatunde Ipaye, that over 60 million Nigerians have various degrees of mental disorder is alarming. The medical expert, who revealed this to newsmen in Abeokuta, Ogun State, noted that 80 per cent of people move about with one mental disorder without knowing or seeking for help while 20-25 per cent has advanced cases of mental disorder in the country.
He explained that cases
He explained that cases of mental challenges range from minor mood disorder to extreme cases of mental accreditation. He also said that one out of every five Nigerians has an extreme case of mental disorder. There is no doubt that Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa with rising incidence of mental illness.
It will be recalled that the Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Research and Training, Prof. Oye Gureje, last year, said that one in seven adult Nigerians would have one form of mental disorder or the other in their lifetime.
Available statistics from some studies show that between 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent of Nigerians are reported to be psychotic, while 10 per cent experience depression. As a result of insufficient manpower and resources, less than 20 per cent of persons with mental disorder receive any effective treatment in the country.
We decry the increasing cases of mental disorder in the country and call on the nation’s health authorities to do something urgently to stem the scourge. The increase in mental disorder among Nigerians should worry the government, especially the health authorities. In fact, the Federal and State health authorities should come out with pragmatic measures to address the health emergency.
The government should show great interest in the development of mental health care in the country. It should stop pretending over the matter. The current lip-service to mental health issues does not augur well for our general health care delivery systems.
Mental health issues should no longer be treated with levity. Mental disorder should be treated as any other illness. There is, therefore, no point discriminating against those with the condition. They should also not be stigmatized as presently being done in some Nigerian communities.
The public should respect people with mental disorder. Like other disease sufferers, they should be treated with dignity. They should not be targets of emotional and physical abuse. Those that have the condition should seek for urgent medical attention in available health facilities.
We lament the dearth of psychiatrists in the country and the development of mental health institutions. Many Nigerian doctors do not want to specialize in psychiatric medicine. While the ratio of psychiatrists to the population in Europe and North America is 1 to 10,000, it is less than 1 to one million people in sub-Saharan African countries, including Nigeria.
The increasing cases of domestic violence, suicide and murder could be as a result of the rising cases of mental illness among Nigerians. It could also be traceable to the effects of the excruciating economic condition. The government should provide palliative measures to ameliorate the worsening economic situation.
Part of its social contract with the people is to ensure their welfare and security. It is likely that Nigeria will have more cases of mental disorder if the present economic situation persists. The government should, therefore, train more psychiatrists to cater for those with mental disorder in the country.