By Gabriel Olawale
Experts have raised alarm over likely increase in cases of mental illness if urgent attention is not paid to some of the underlying factors that may fuel the upsurge.
The professionals who gathered at the 49th Annual General and Scientific Meeting of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria in Lagos highlighted some of the reasons to include extinction of traditional family structure, desperation to make it at all cost, lack of job security, shortage of psychiatrists, non-passage of mental health bill among others.
Professor of Community Health, Akin Osibogun said that the breakdown in traditional family structure remains one of the major factors for increase in suicide, “We need to rebuild our social network. People are committing suicide because they don’t have social mechanism to relate with. Traditionally, we have family support, but as we get urbanised, people are now more on their own.
“What is done in other parts of the world is that they establish social services where people can make contact with those social services. Currently, with traditional family structure breaking down because of urbanisation and yet, we are not establishing social support system, there will be increase in suicide cases.
“Presently, we have about 40 million to 60 million Nigerians with one form of mental disorder and we have more than 200 psychiatrists in the country. The shortage is global, and we need to put in place structure that will encourage our psychiatrists to stay in the country while we train more.
Corroborating his view, President, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, Dr. Taiwo Sheikh disclosed that everybody wants to be successful and that success sometimes comes with its own price.
“One is competition. People compete and that could lead to unhealthy lifestyle where you need something to ginger you to make a move.
“Substance abuse which is also a topical issue in Nigeria today often comes to mind. Study shows that youth within the ages of 18 to 35 years are the most vulnerable to substance abuse in Nigeria, this is the core wall for nation-building and drug is consuming them. So it is a huge problem and we need to find a way to deal with it.
“Another thing is stress which pushes human beings to the wall.”
When you are pushed further, you break and come down with different types of mental issue. Today depression is high among mental health issues, many people are carrying burden of depression without their neighbours being aware because the assumption is that for you to say you have mental illness you have to walk naked on the street or tear your clothes.
Sheikh said that signing mental health bill into law will help protect the mentally ill protect care givers and establish level of care someone can render to mentally ill person, define who is responsible for funding, treatment, etc.
On his part, Chairman Local Organizing Committee, Dr. Raphael Ogbolu said that the brain drain in psychiatry profession will expose mental ill to quacks which portend chaos for the mental wellbeing of Nigeria.
“This means that problems such as drug abuse, depression and suicide will rise and not get professional care they need which may itself take a greater toll on the economy of the individual or the family, as out of pocket pay remains the norm.
“Such untreated or poorly treated disorders may have an effect on the suicide rates in the country as well.