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Expert links increase in mental illness to stressful environment

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By Chioma Obinna

With 20  percent of nigerians said to be prone to mental disorder, expert has linked the rising incidences of the disorder among nigerians to stressful and difficult environment. Speaking in lagos, the renowned consultant psychiatrist, dr olufemi olugbile called on government at all levels to make the society more conducive to the wellbeing of nigerians with a view to reducing the risk of illness among the populace.

olugbileThe World Health Organisation, WHO, describes mental health” as a state of well being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Olugbile who lamented the rate at which Nigerians come down with mental problems stressed the need for government to ensure the general safety and happiness level of the general populace in the society. He maintained that making the environment more conducive as a preventive strategy would curb to the minimal level the rate at which people come down with the illness.

In his lecture titled: “Arts Politics and Mental Health” at the Annual Adeoye Lambo Lecture during the Scientific Conference of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, Olugbile also  charged psychiatrists in the country to establish an internationally acceptable policy to handle cases of political office holders who become ill in office.

The former Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, disclosed that one in every seven Nigerians at some point in life should expect to have one experience of mental illness. “What people carry about is the tendency to illness not necessarily the illness itself.

“Living in a very stressful and difficult environment of course means that anybody who is likely to break down for mental illness will breakdown and anybody who is likely to have illness will have illness.” On how to handle politicians who become ill in offices, Olugbile said, “If people become ill in office, there must be clearly defined ways of professionally handling this without rancour and without political interference.

“We have a few instances when people became ill in office and it was very badly handled and politicised and trivialised to the disadvantage of the individuals themselves and the society at large and that must not happen. So having a clear script from the body of psychiatrists can help to define the appropriate thing to do in line with international best practice.”

According to him, people who had psychiatric illness have won Nobel prizes and done great things in the society.  The issue that is of most concern to people is the responsibility of behaviour in the political space.

He therefore called for the establishment of strong institutions that discourage bad behaviour. “We also need to culturally re-programme our people from the grass root to behave ethically. It is not just going to happen by sermonising but through a behaviour modification programmme that psychiatrists need to participate in devising.

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