The Associate Professor of Psychiatry, College of Medicine University of Ibadan, Dr. Jibril Abdulmalik, has stated that eight out of every 10 Nigerians with a mental health problem are not getting any treatment.
Abdulmalik cited the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2006 survey to have revealed that 80 per cent of Nigerians suffering from mental health were not getting the treatment they needed.
He also stated that only two out of 10 were getting any treatment, and people suffering from mental health don’t believe it is something to go to hospital as a result they suffer in ignorance, shame, and stigma.
Abdulmalik, disclosed at the 3RD Nigeria Conference on Adolescent AND
Youth Health and Development, EKO 2023, said mental health problems in Nigeria have been on the increase over time, adding that in children and young people, there is increasing rates of drug abuse, suicide and suicidal behaviour and dementia associated with the elderly.
He remarked that there have been reports on social media of young people in universities, and even secondary school, who fail WAEC and start drinking insecticide and try to take their own life, adding that these problems were also common in our environment.
He further explained that the major problem in the society was that of ignorance, shame and stigma, stating that so many people who were depressed don’t want anybody to hear so that their family would not be labelled as a family with someone suffering from dementia.
According to him, “So, because of that shame and stigma, many people are suffering in silence and they are not getting the care they need, and that is a major challenge, we have to make progress as a society.
“We need to be able to have a society where there is no stigma and shame. The same way I will not be ashamed to tell you that I have a fracture or Asthma. I should not be ashamed to say I’m depressed or have bipolar disorder.
“So, we need to promote information, and public awareness, until we get to that stage where people are no longer embarrassed to come forward to receive treatment.
“The last thing is also that many people believe that mental illness is a spiritual problem, and it is not a medical problem.
“So, in the middle of the road approach what I appeal for is that we don’t say don’t pray, but at least go to hospital and take treatment and then support the treatment with prayers, they should not be mutually exclusive.
“We have eight specialist neuro psychiatric hospitals in Nigeria, and two new ones, one in Kano and the other in Ilorin. Then some teaching hospitals and Federal Medical Centres, some of them not all of them, have departments of mental health or psychiatric and not all of them do.
“So, we have less than 300 psychiatrists for a population of 200 million, so that roughly translates to just about one psychiatrist to per 1 million population. So that is another reason why people are not getting the care they need.”
Earlier in his remarks, President of Eko 2023 Society for Adolescent, Prof. Adesegun Fatusi, said they are not just an association that advances the health and development of young people in Nigeria, but are the strongest voice for young people in Africa, which is the agenda of the society to advance the health and wellbeing of young people in Nigeria and around the world.