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Experts canvass for increased investment in mental healthcare to boost delivery


Some mental health experts have appealed to government agencies and international donor organisations to increase their investments in mental healthcare so as to boost its delivery in the country.

The experts made the appeal in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, on Sunday, as the world commemorated the 2021 ‘World Mental Health Day’ marked annually on Oct. 10.

NAN reports that the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is: ”Mental health in an unequal world”.

They told NAN that it was pertinent to increase investments in mental health, in view of the increasing cases of mental health conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and other socio-economic and security issues in the country.

Prof. Taiwo Sheikh, President, Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), urged the Federal Government to pay more attention to mental healthcare delivery, similar to the attention given to people living with HIV/AIDS and other physical health challenges.

He argued that there were more people with mental health problems than those living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases, especially with the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic, insurgency, insecurity, economic hardships and other crises across the country, which had left several people in need of psychiatric evaluation.

Sheikh emphasised that although victims of these crises were often affected psychologically, little or no attention was paid to providing them with healthcare that would cater to their needs.

He, therefore, stressed the need for an increase in the budgetary allocation to mental health, pointing out that only 3.5 per cent of the health sector’s budget was allocated to mental health when “mental health is as important as physical health.

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

“Nigeria has a mental health policy, but this policy is not being implemented. For too long, mental disorders have been largely overlooked despite the fact that they are found in all countries.

“Mental disorders are found in women and men, at all stages of life, among the rich and the poor, and in both rural and urban settings.

“If people with mental disorders fail to receive the treatment and care they require, they risk becoming marginalised by society and many descend into poverty and homelessness,” Sheikh said.

Also commenting, a Consultant Neuro-Psychiatrist, Dr Maymunah Kadiri, expressed concern that “triggers of trauma” was on the rise due to the increasing spate of insecurity and economic challenges in the country.

Kadiri, the Medical Director, Pinnacle Medical Services, warned that as a result of the development, cases of mental health would continue to increase, unless urgent measures were taken by government to resolve the numerous crises and challenges.

She said that several people, especially those in rural communities, who were in need of psychological evaluation and support, could not access them due to lack of mental health institutions.

The neuro-psychiatrist, therefore, called for the establishment of more psychiatric hospitals and rehabilitation centres across the country to increase access to mental health services, particularly in the rural communities.

Mrs Veronica Nyamali, APN Vice-president, called for the passage of the National Mental Health Bill into law to help in repositioning the mental health system in the country.

Nyamali said the passage of the bill had become very necessary, to provide direction for a coherent response to mental health and substance abuse victims, while regulating the activities of mental health services and institutions.

According to her, the bill seeks to address the issue of social discrimination against people suffering from mental related ailments.

“The mental health Bill has been at the National Assembly for several years without passage into law. Unless this Bill is passed into law, like it has been done in some other countries, Nigerian mental health patients will continue to suffer social stigmatisation,” she said.

A Professor of Nursing, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Badru Fatai, called for the integration of mental health into Primary Healthcare Services, for easy access by Nigerians.

Fatai, also a Psychiatric Nurse, explained that the integration would not only boost mental healthcare service delivery, but also create room for more affordability and accessibility of the services at the grassroots.

He said that psychiatric hospitals were not supposed to be a stand-alone health facilities, as is the case in Nigeria; it should be integrated into the primary healthcare programme.

“There is need to facilitate more access to mental health care for Nigerians; it will be better if Nigerians can access mental healthcare, even down to the primary health centres, which are operating at the grassroots,” Fatai said (NAN)

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