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Suicide: physicians want structured health centres to detect, treat depression

The Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria (SOFPON) has called for structured Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) that would help to detect and treat depression early to avoid suicide. SOFFON made the call at a news conference in Lagos.

It addressed the conference in collaboration with the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN).

The conference was in commemoration of the World Family Doctor Day (WFDD) marked annually on May 19 to acknowledge the role and contributions of family physicians in healthcare delivery.

The 2017 WFDD had the theme “Curbing Depression in the Society“.

The President of SOFPON, Lagos Zone, Dr Blessing Chukwukwelu, said that family physicians needed to be trained continuously in order to close the gap in depression treatment.

According to her, family physicians see various cases at the primary healthcare level and are the first patients receive treatment from at the PHCs.
“In Nigeria, only one-fifth of those with a depressive episode receive any treatment, and only one in 50 receive treatment that is minimally adequate.

“Therefore, there is the need for medical practitioners who see various cases of ailment at the PHCs to be trained on how to identify the symptoms of depression.

“The primary care is the sector that affects the health of the nation; so, preventing a condition at this level will not let it progress to the secondary level.

“When a physician takes a good history, he is able to diagnose the disorder; family physicians have the tools to tackle and also refer to the psychiatrist when he needs to,“ she said.

The doctor added that awareness among the general public was key to curbing depression.

Chukwukwelu said that the conference was aimed at making people aware that those affected by depression could talk about it and get treated.
“The media also has a duty to disseminate information to the society at large; let people be informed about the condition and know that they can talk about it,“ she said.

Another family physician, Dr Sylvester Osinowo, said that the country needed 80 per cent functional PHCs, adding that 80 per cent of the people would visit the PHCs.

Oshinowo is the Chief Medical Director of a Lagos-based hospital, Amazing Grace Medical Centre.

“We currently do not have a structured PHC which is a huge challenge in addressing the burden of the disorder.

“Everybody should be able to have his or her private general practitioner or family physicians; it is a standard in the United Kingdom and other developed countries.

“Many of the health issues are quickly solved when people have physicians they talk to,“ he said.

The Chairman, AGPMPN, Lagos Chapter Chapter, Dr Tunji Akintade, said that there was the need for private/public collaboration in curbing depression.
Akintade said: “There has to be a relationship between the private and public sector.

“There is no reason why private hospitals across the country should have minimum of 10 or 20 beds unoccupied and you have a government hospital that has 60 or 70 beds all occupied.

“This is part of the challenges that the government needs to tackle.
“The social services that used to exist in public hospitals in the past have been eroded, and it is creating a lot of challenges including backlog of cases,’’ he said.

The doctor said that public/private collaboration would address the challenges of lack of health personnel and long queues in the public hospitals.
In a statement, the National President, SOFPON, Dr Akin Moses, said that depression could occur when there were stressful conditions.

According to Moses, Nigeria ranks 152 out of 188 countries in Human Development Index.

“This index considers our literacy level, poverty and life expectancy.
“Almost 40 per cent of Nigerians aged 15 years and above are illiterate, and for those who go to school, our mean duration of schooling is six years.
“About 53. 5 per cent of Nigerians lived below the poverty line of $1. 90 per day.

“As if stressful conditions are not sufficient, negative life events such as bereavement, job loss, financial difficulty, divorce, loneliness, childhood abuse and neglect can trigger depression,’’ Moses said.

He added that people with chronic pain, medical illnesses, caregiver burden, patients on certain drugs and those abusing substances such as cocaine and alcohol were at an increased risk of depression.


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