November 25, 2021

Mental healthcare in Nigeria and tech startups’ impact

By Abbas Badmus

Nigeria’s health tech startup industry has been steadily growing over the years. E-health is helping in improving the quality of life, reducing the cost of healthcare, and making healthcare efficient and easily accessible.

One of the pioneers, BridgingSpace is demonstrating its commitment to transforming the health care system by providing necessary support to persons suffering from mental health-related issues such as depression, anxiety and others.

The e-health startup will serve as an effective platform for individuals who have mental health-related issues by helping to break stereotypes and stigma-related circumstances towards promoting healthy communities.

Wikipedia defines e-health (Digital health) as the convergence of digital technologies with health, healthcare, living, and society to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery through hardware and software solutions and services.

E-Health startups aim to provide technological products or resources to the medical market, typically targeting medical practitioners, patients, health insurance providers or corporate organisations.

The firms are doing great work on maternal and child health, Electronic Health Records (HER), health insurance, telemedicine, pharmaceuticals, services, content and information. 

A few examples are Lifebank, Mobidoc, Meditell, Mamalette, Omomi, Ubenwa, Helpmum, DrugStoc, Mymedicines, Wella Health, and Doctoral.

BridgingSpace is coming into Nigeria’s health tech space with a unique focus on addressing the mental health crisis ravaging the populace, especially, under the current climate of global economic and social uncertainties, no thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The prevalence of mental health issues in the country shows that an increasing number of people are vulnerable to emotional distress and other mood disorders at some time in their life.

Chief Executive Officer, BridgingSpace, Edet Ekpenyong recently told Techdigest that the youth demographic has the highest cases of depression and anxiety due economic hardship, cultural biases, and other social pressures.

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Noting that one out of four Nigerians are victims, Ekpenyong regrets many do not seek professional help because of stigma, discrimination and complicated processes needed to access therapy.

He advises that families, peer groups and the public should focus attention on the psychosocial health of their community by encouraging them to speak out about mental health challenges they are experiencing in schools, the workplace or among their peers.

Ekpenyong assured that the startup has put in place effective channels for communication, partnerships, and collaborations with support groups, for-profit and nonprofit organizations to collectively address the scourge of mental health issues affecting people.

“BridgingSpace will serve as a premier source for mental healthcare solutions while using data to positively influence healthy outcomes for communities around the world”, he said.

However, the main obstacles confronting e-Health startups are lack of access to funding, absence of government in terms of political will, regulatory frameworks and policies. 

Another barrier is adoption. How many people are using this software? How many people have downloaded the apps? How many actually use these apps?

While these factors have continued to undermine the growth and prosperity of health tech companies, I believe that the current slow adoption of e-health technologies will improve as people learn to appreciate and embrace the benefits offered by emerging e-health technology like the BridgingSpace application.

All levels of government need to recognize and prioritise the importance of adequate mental healthcare by making effective treatment, adequate facilities and resources available to encourage health tech companies contribute to overall quality healthcare delivery.

In addition, the government should support these e-health startups with massive educational campaigns to create needed awareness to help them understand mental illnesses and the benefits of e-health care platforms.

I am optimistic that the Nigerian health tech space has come to stay and will make a more visible impact in no distant time. With increased mobile penetration and internet access, adoption of e-health technologies/platforms, our dream will metamorphose into practical reality.

Abbas Badmus writes from FHA Lugbe, Abuja

Vanguard News Nigeria