By Prof Taiwo L. Sheikh

Health is not just the absence of illness

Nigeria currently faces an emergency in mental health.

Underpinned by poor societal attitudes towards mental illness and inadequate resources, facilities, and mental health staff, over 90 per cent of individuals with serious mental health needs cannot access care. 

There are gaps in the integration of mental health care into general health care services at all levels, emphasise the general neglect and stigma around mental health issues in the country.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 stressing Nigerians’ mental health stability beyond limit ― Owoeye

All these point to an urgent need for intervention to ensure that Nigerians with mental illness obtain adequate care and protection.  

In line with the resolve to initiate change in the control, management and prevention of mental health disorders in Nigeria, Vanguard is introducing the Mental Wellbeing column. 

This maiden edition is anchored by Professor Taiwo Lateef Sheikh, a renowned Professor of Psychiatry at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the President of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN).

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health,  Abdulaziz  Abdullahi,  says three in every 10 Nigerians suffer from one form of mental disorder or the other. 

Abdullahi further decries the level of awareness of Nigerians on mental health, saying it is understandably poor, with lots of misconceptions.

“By 2020, it is estimated that common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse-related disorders, will disable more people than complications arising from HIV/AIDS, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined,” he warned.

The official said the aforementioned statistics is astonishing and possesses serious questions as to why mental health disorders are not given the needed attention that it deserves.

 Also, Evelyn Ngige, a Director of Public Health in the ministry expressed worry over the statistics, describing it as damning. She said it could get worse given the current economic hardships in the country.  

Considering the current economic situation in the country, the above statistics are damning and in the light of the recent suicidal episodes recorded in parts of Lagos, it forces a rethink in our general attitudes to mental health and questions our current maintenance of the status quo,” Ngige noted.

If permitted, I’ll sum up Nigeria’s mental health situation as Stress… Stress…Stress!  

We need not consult far to understand the relationship between stress and mental health!!

Bloomberg currently ranks Nigeria as the most stressful country to live in the world, based on multiple factors in the living environment. To an average Nigerian, stress is the norm; “Just deal with it!” is the popular opinion. 

From the non-existent power supply, poor road conditions,  unemployment, and abysmal working conditions, stressful, poverty-driven lifestyles are rampant and with these issues in mind we can understand” – Bloomberg!

Social determinants of Mental health

They are societal problems that disrupt optimal mental health, increase risk for and prevalence of mental illnesses, and worsen outcomes among individuals with mental illnesses.

Mental health and many common mental disorders are shaped to a great extent by the social, economic, and physical environments in which people live.

Social inequalities are associated with increased risk of many common mental disorders.

Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness; it is a dynamic process of change and growth. “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

What is wellness?

Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth. “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Why wellness matters

Maintaining an optimal level of wellness is absolutely crucial to live a higher quality life.

Everything we do and every emotion we feel relates to our well-being.

In turn, our well-being directly affects our actions and emotions. It’s an ongoing circle.

Therefore, it is important for everyone to achieve optimal wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions.

Mental Health/Wellbeing/Distress/Illness continuum

Mental Health  includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.  Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mental wellbeing

According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, mental wellbeing is a state of wellbeing 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.

Mental health has come a long way in Nigeria, but we are yet to achieve systemic change for universal access to effective, qualitative and affordable mental care. The signing of a the mental health bill into law is a critical investment in Mental Health in Nigeria that will guarantee access to effective, compassionate and quality mental health care that we desire.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.