Mental Health Crisis in Nigeria.
Brief History Of Nigeria
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Modern Nigeria dates back to 1914, when the British Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were joined together. Nigeria is a country located on the western coast of Africa.
It has a diverse geography, with climates ranging from arid to humid equatorial.
The current population of Nigeria is 209,672,681 as of Sunday, March 14, 2021, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.
Nigeria is the Africa’s most populous democracy and the most populous black nation in the world.
Three are three main languages spoken in Nigeria, which are Yoruba, Hausa, and Ibo. Also, there are more than 260 ethnic groups in Nigeria. The English Language remains the official and unifying language in Nigeria.
God blessed Nigeria with natural resources like Bitumen, coal, coffee, cocoa, iron ore, salt, Tin, oil palm, sugarcane, rubber, plantain, kola nut, cotton, Groundnut, Timber, oil, and gas, and many more (Britannica, 2021).
(Psychiatric Advisor, 2020)
Mental Health in Nigeria
In Nigeria, mental health is a public health challenge with a lack of understanding of the disease process, great institutional neglect, corruption, and widespread public stigma of people with mental health disorders (Labinjo, Serrant, Ashmore, & Turner, 2020). In Nigeria, mental health disorders are generally made worst by the misconceptions and lack of public education and awareness of the disease process and management. In most parts of the rural areas of Nigeria States, the research showed that a higher percentage of the people residing in this area believed that mental disorders were caused by supernatural things like evil spirits, sorcery, witchcraft, and divine punishment from gods. In the educated area of the country, the majority of the people attributed the cause of mental disorders to drugs, alcohol misuse, spells, or destiny from God because of their religious belief (Labinjo et al., 2020).
(Sun Nigeria Newspaper, 2018)
Mental Health In Nigeria Continues…
It is believed that in Nigeria, an estimated one in five youth have a mental disorder, while one in adults (more than 10 percent) will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. In young people between the ages of 14 and 45, people believed that the majority of them have mental health challenges like depression and anxiety; Still, many youths with these types of mental disorders do not go to the hospital for treatment or check-ups. This disorder was further exacerbated by the public stigma associated with it that prevents those with the disease from seeking or accessing effective therapy promptly (Sun Newspaper, 2018). With the advent of booming movies and music industries in Nigeria, more than 70 percent of Nigerian youths indulge in substance abuse and illicit drugs. Most of them are abusing tramadol, codeine, alcohol, and dangerous illegal substances that can cause mental health disorders (Sun Newspaper, 2018). It is interesting to know that only a few numbers of Nigerian populations willingly seek psychiatric evaluation and help. In fact, in Nigeria, if anyone is sighted near mental health institution or suspected to be suffering from mental disorders or known to be a substance user, such a person may suffer from public stigmatization and humiliation (Sun Newspaper, 2018).
(Human Right Watch, 2018)
Mental Health Crisis In Nigeria
The problems of Nigeria’s mental health crisis started in 1916 when the first mental health laws were enacted, called the Lunacy Ordinance. These laws were amended in 1958 and renamed the Lunacy Act of 1958; the law gave the medical practitioners and magistrates court the power to detain and seclude individuals suffering from mental health disorders for a specific period without repercussion. The laws have not been amended since that time (Ugochukwu, Mbaezue, Lawal, Azubogu, Sheikh, & Vallières, 2020). Today, with the modernization in the management and treatment of mental health disorders, the legislation is archaic and outdated. The laws reflected a period in human history when mental health was severely misunderstood and when the management and treatment of people with mental health care needs were both ineffective and inhumane. In 2003, some senators sponsored a Mental Health Bill in Nigerian National Assembly; with little supports from other senators and no progress for more than seven years, the sponsor withdrew the Bill in 2009. Again, a senator from the western part of Nigeria reintroduced the Bill in 2013 to include the treatment of people with other neurological and substance use disorders. Yet, with little support, the Bill is yet to become a law; the lack of enacted of this Bill makes people’s lives with mental health disorder difficult (Ugochukwu et al., 2020).
(Leadership Hausa Newspaper, 2020)
Mental Health Crisis In Nigeria continues..
Another major mental health problems in Nigeria is the dilapidated mental health hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and religious outlets catering for people with mental health problems, especially in rural areas. Between August 2018 and September 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited more than 28 facilities allegedly providing mental health care services in more than 6 states and Nigeria Federal Capital Territory, including some federal psychiatric hospitals, general hospitals, religious rehabilitation centers, state-owned rehabilitation centers, and traditional healing homes and centers (Human Rights Watch, 2019). The organization interviewed more than 120 people, including more than 45 chaining patients and their relatives, staff in various centers, mental health professionals, and government officials. HRW found that majority of the patients with perceived or actual mental health illnesses including children, are placed in the facilities without their consent, usually by relatives or religious leader. In some cases, police also helped arrest people and send them to unequipped rehabilitation centers. After forceful admission, many are shackled with iron chains to tree, wheels, house, or other detainees, in some cases for several weeks, months, or years. They will be forced to drink and eat concoction and herbs against their will and consent (Human Rights Watch, 2019).
(Human Rights Watch, 2019)
Mental Health Crisis In Nigeria continues…
It is well known all over the world that Nigeria is currently facing a global humans rights emergency when it comes to mental health issues. These problems are made worst by poor societal attitudes towards mental illness and inadequate resources, corruptions, facilities, and qualified mental health staff, research data suggest that an appropriate 80 percent of people with serious mental health needs and services in Nigeria cannot get, access, or afford it (Ugochukwu et al., 2020). With less than 300 psychiatrists for a population of more than 200 million, most of whom are in urban areas, and in view of poor knowledge of mental health disorders at the primary health-care level, caring for people with mental disorder is typically left to confused and helpless family members (Ugochukwu et al., 2020).
Finding Solution to Nigeria Mental Health Crisis
Due to the shortages of psychiatrists in the country, the concern member of the psychiatric community in Nigeria designed a model called Task-Sharing. The model involves educating and training other health personnel, such as community health workers, to prevent, identify, and assess mental health issues and provide basic mental health interventions, thus reducing the number of cases that are brought to the very few hospitals and specialists (Adepoju, 2020).
Finding Solution to Nigeria Mental Health Crisis…
In the last five years, the government agencies, NGOs, international agencies, and professional bodies have promoted public education and awareness campaigns in rural areas, hospitals, and traditional healing centers about how to assess, treat, prevent, and manage mental health disorders. These campaigns have targeted general population, children/adolescents and other vulnerable or minority group such as the homeless and people of lower social class (World Health Organization, 2020). In addition, public education and awareness campaigns have also targeted professional groups including health care providers, nurses, teachers, pastors, imam, and other professional groups associated providing mental health services or assessing for mental health disorder (WHO, 2020).
The Change has started…
As the most populous black nation in the world and in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria naturally encompasses a ethically and religiously diverse population with different languages. Each ethic group have different attitudes and external believe and influencers relating to their perception of the causes and treatment of mental illness. Until unified goals are established by all the players supported by the genuine government policies and laws free of corruption and biases relating to mental health; mental health crisis will continue to ravage the Nigeria health care system.
Adepoju, P. (2020). Short of mental health professionals, Nigeria tries a new approach. Retrieved from https://www.devex.com/news/short-of-mental-health-professionals-nigeria-tries-a-new-approach-98176
Britannica (2021). Nigeria. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Nigeria
Human Rights Watch (2019). Nigeria: People with mental health conditions chained, abused. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/11/nigeria-people-mental-health-conditions-chained-abused#
Labinjo, T., Serrant, L., Ashmore, R., & Turner, J. (2020). Perceptions, attitudes and cultural understandings of mental health in Nigeria: a scoping review of published literature. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 23(7), 606–624. https://doi-org.libproxy.adelphi.edu/10.1080/13674676.2020.1726883
Sun Newspaper (2018). Tackling rising cases of mental disorder. Retrieved https://www.sunnewsonline.com/tackling-rising-cases-of-mental-disorder/
Ugochukwu, O., Mbaezue, N., Lawal, S., Azubogu, C., Sheikh, T., & Vallières, F. (2020). The time is now: reforming Nigeria’s outdated mental health laws. The Lancet Global Health, 8(8), e989–e990. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30302-8
World Health Organization (2020). Mental health system in Nigeria. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/nigeria_who_aims_report.pdf