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Experts seek end to mental health stigma


Mental health experts and other stakeholders in the country’s health sector have advocated an end to mental health stigma in the country.

The experts and the stakeholders, at the first edition of Vanguard Mental Health Summit held in Lagos said there was the need to demystify the stigma surrounding mental health in Nigeria.

The theme of the event was…

The President, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, Prof. Taiwo Sheikh, noted that the treatment gap in mental health cases in the country had grown 85 per cent.

“The number of serious cases receiving no treatment during the last 12 months in developed countries varies from 35.5 percent to 50.3 percent. This treatment gap in Nigeria is as high as 85 per cent.

”There is no clearly defined budget allocation for mental health in the national health budget, allocation for health amounts to only 3.65 per cent of 2016 budget and about 3.3 per cent of the health budget of the Federal Government goes to mental health, with over 90 per cent of this going to institution-based services provided through eight stand-alone mental hospitals.

”There is enormous inequity in the distribution of mental health services and available resources,” Sheikh said.

The Chairman of the Lagos State Primary Healthcare Board, Prof. Akin Osibogun, said more than 40 million Nigerians were suffering from mental health disorders.

Osibogun noted that the predicament of people suffering from mental health-related issues was being compounded as a result of stigmatisation, discrimination, denial and lack of understanding.

He said, “Recent estimates suggest that not less than 40 million Nigerians have one mental issue or the other and we have less than 200 psychiatrists in the country at the last count. I honestly don’t know how many are left after the current wave of brain drain.

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“Mental health issues have generally suffered from denial, lack of understanding, stigmatization and discrimination which are all compounded by a difficulty in initiating a public discussion of the issue.”

Also, a mental health advocate, Dr Maymunah Kadiri, urged Nigerians managing mental health to stop self-stigmatisation.

She said, “Self-perceived stigmatisation refers to the negative attitudes, including internalised shame that people with mental illness have about their own condition. Stigma not only directly affects individuals with mental illness but also loved ones who support them, often including their family members.”

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said the state was expanding management and treatment of psychiatric related ailments with a 500-bed hospital facility, aimed at offering succour to people suffering from the disorder.

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