By Dennis Agbo
The Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, APN, has lamented the dearth of professional psychiatrists in the country, stating that the shortage was a serious challenge to resolution of mental cases in Nigeria.
The group said that as at present, only 250 qualified psychiatrists are working in a country of about 200 million people whereas the standard practice is for one psychiatric doctor to take care of 10,000 patients.
The body of psychiatrists said that what was affecting the lack of qualified personnel is mostly the brain drain where most of the country’s trained psychiatrists have left the country for greener pastures overseas.
APN President, Prof. Taiwo Obindo, made the disclosure, yesterday, at the ongoing 53rd Annual General and Scientific Meeting of all psychiatric doctors in Nigeria, holding at Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu with a theme: “Insecurity and Forced Displacement: Mental Health and Psychological Implication.”
Obindo said that Nigeria currently has a ratio of one qualified psychiatric doctor to about a million Nigerians, noting that the development has made accessibility and deliverability of psychiatric care relatively difficult in the country.
Obindo revealed that up to two-third of yearly well-trained and certified psychiatric doctors leave the country annually, creating a negative situation in Nigeria. “As we speak now, we are having less than 250 certified psychiatric doctors throughout the whole country and more are leaving by the day,” he lamented.
He called for the passage of the National Mental Health Bill (amended) to give proper process and administration of mental health treatment and other issues relating to mental health, which included adequate funding and enumeration of its professionals.
“Mental healthcare should be incorporated into the primary healthcare system to cater for the primary and secondary institutions treating mental health disorders in localities. Presently, the little budget meant for mental health treatment goes to the tertiary institutions only.
“Mental health should be fully taken care of at the Primary Healthcare Centres to save Nigerians transport, feeding and accommodation cost as well as stress of conveying a mental ill relative to urban centres where psychiatric hospitals are found,” he said.
On the theme, Obindo noted that those that were entangled within the current insecurity and forced displacement had continued to face psychological and psychiatric trauma and disorders, noting that government and other organisations providing succour should not only provide food and shelter items but also psychological and psychiatric care.
According to him, “we should ensure they recover from the shock of insecurity scenes they witness or their personal losses. It is important that the government and other support groups give them special attention to meet their current challenging emotional, psychological and psychiatric needs and not to fall into deeper depression or societal withdrawal.”
The Medical Director of Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, who is also the Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, LOC, for the meeting, Prof. Monday Igwe said that insecurity was becoming a major cause of mental trauma and stress for some Nigerians.
Igwe said that traumatic condition caused by insecurity and forced displaced can further lead to psychological imbalance, depression and suicide.
“It is time we put the psychological and psychiatric needs of these people into serious consideration and ensure that they pass through their ordeal with renewed hope that tomorrow will be better,” he said.
Chairman of the function and Enugu state commissioner for Health, Prof. Ike Obi asked for a redefinition of the health as a complete state of physical, social and mental wellbeing, noting that even Jesus Christ who was presumed a healthy individual at a point lost control of mental being when he chased way those transacting businesses in the church.