More than 60 million Nigerians, according to the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN), are afflicted with mental illnesses.
This information was provided in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja by Prof. Taiwo Obindo, the association’s president.
“Mental healthcare is in a sorry state given that we have more than 60 million Nigerians suffering from various mental illnesses and the fact that only about 10% of them were able to access appropriate care,” said Obindo, who is also Chairman, Faculty of Psychiatry, Nigeria Chapter of the West African College of Physicians.
“We are left with more than 90 per cent who are unable to access care and this group is called the treatment gap for mental illnesses,” Obindo said
Obindo attributed it to a number of issues, including a lack of education regarding the origins and treatments of mental diseases on the part of the public.
Obindo listed myths and traditional beliefs, a lack of mental health facilities, and a shortage of mental health specialists as problems impeding the management of mental illness in Nigeria.
He claims that the little mental health facilities that are accessible are scattered throughout urban areas, leaving vast gaps in rural areas.
Obindo stated that because 60% of Nigerians reside in rural regions, they lack access to competent treatment and must travel great distances to reach services.
Obindo stated that a number of issues push out the few available mental health professionals, which he said fell short of the ratio advised by the World Health Organization.
“The setting in which we work, the level of security, and the pay people get in the nation tend to drive them away.
He said, “And then, of course, there’s the draw factor from the wealthy countries where they tend to poach on the already trained medical professionals in the country, particularly the psychiatrists.”
He urged Nigeria to put into practice its Mental Health Policy on Psychiatry Practice, claiming that despite the document’s last review in 2013, it had not been done so.
He claims that the policy’s inclusion of mental health in primary healthcare, which would increase access to treatment, is one of its most important elements.
The Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), in collaboration with the National Assembly and the Ministry of Health, submitted the Mental Health Bill; the President has not yet signed it.
Obindo said that this was the most current endeavor in thirty years.