By Sola Ogundipe
The global psychiatric world is set to assemble in Nigeria as from Thursday October 22, 2009 as the 3-day meeting of Psychiatrists and Mental Health Professionals from all over the world takes off in Abuja.
Put together by the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, in collaboration with the African Association of Psychiatrists and Allied Professionals, the event is put together by the World Psychiatric Association. It will be the first time such a meeting is being held in West Africa, and only the second time in Africa.
With the theme â€œScaling up and reaching down â€“ Addressing Uunmet Need For Serviceâ€, the event is aimed at enabling opportunity to address matters crucial to the nationâ€™s well being.
In a statement jointly signed by Prof. Oye Gureje and Dr. Femi Olugbile, President and Vice President, Association of Psychiatrists inÂ Nigeria respectively, mental illness is described as one of the greatest causes of disability in the world. The statement noted that an estimated 30 million Nigerians will suffer from a mental disorder of some type in the course of their lives, while 90 per cent of the people who are currently suffering from major or minor mental disorder in Nigeria do not receive any treatment at all.
According to Olugbile who is Chairman LOC, observed that the aggregated cost of untreated illness to individuals and to our nationâ€™s economy in terms of lost man-hours and diminished productivity has been estimated at several billions of naira annually.
â€œThe mental health indices for our nation are among the worst in the world. There are 130 psychiatrists to minister to a population of over 140 million people. Most of our population reside in the rural areas where there are no services at all for them. We are expecting five hundred participants from all over the world.
â€œThere will be special sessions with top government officials, including the Ministers of Health of some African countries, during the conference, so that the innovative ideas that are put forward may be translated to practical action for the improvement of lives- not just in Nigeria, but in the whole of the African continent.
He said theÂ Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, and the Local Organising Committee was urging the Nigerian media to participate fully in the activities of the conference and to take the opportunity of the presence of many foreign psychiatrists and other mental health experts from all over the world to get involved in mental health issues and deepen their knowledge of what needs to be done to improve the mental health of Nigerians.
The Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria was mooted in 1969 and inaugurated in 1970. At the onset of Psychiatric practiceÂ many pioneer psychiatrists worked with government establishments within the University system and Federal and State government owned hospitals.