By Lukeman Amin

Mental disorders are quite common and by the World Health Organization’s estimation, they’ll will affect a whopping 15% of the world’s population by the year 2020!

It is predicted that by this time, common mental ailments such as depression anxiety and substance-related abuse would do more damage than complications arising from AIDS, heart diseases and wars combined. This is indeed a shocking revelation, considering the fact that this matter is not being given the attention it deserves.

It is worthy of note that the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes mental disorder as “a range of problems, with different symptoms… characterized by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behavior and relationships with others”.

History reminds us that the Nigerian attitude to poor mental health (which includes schizophrenia, depression, intellectual disabilities and disorders due to drug abuse), is partly attributed to paranormal or spiritual phenomena. This is largely as a result of the high regard for tradition and religion in this part of the world. Often, demons, spirits and other external factors including God himself have been linked to the causes of mental health issues. 

In the past, some mental health patients were subjected to various forms of inhumane acts such as being burnt alive, flogged, restrained with chains and so much more. This has greatly shaped the mental health stigma in Nigeria. Also, there is a belief that mental health issues are mostly related to insanity, therefore discouraging a lot of people from freely expressing the mental health challenges they face.

In this vein, the WHO-AIMS in 2006 reported that there is a huge neglect on mental health in Nigeria. It stated that documents linked to mental health policies was formulated as far back as 1991. However, there have been no efforts for evaluation, monitoring assessment or follow-up to successfully implement these policies in Nigeria.  

More so, it is interesting to note that there are too few desks in the federal government ministries dealing with the scourge of mental disorder and only a mere 4% of government revenue is allocated to the problem of mental disorders. Furthermore, there is an inadequacy of basic medication and mental health physicians to oversee the proper care of patients as well as appropriate prescriptions of psychotropic medication. 

The fact that there is only a sprinkling of non-governmental organizations to assist in advocacy and sheltering mental health patients poses another major problem.

On November 13th 2018, Sahara Reporters reported that Mr. Abdulaziz Abdullahi, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health at the Mental Health Action Committee and Stakeholders Workshop in Abuja said that a staggering 30% of the Nigerian population suffer from mental health issues. This is huge! 

With the United Nations’ estimation of Nigeria’s population in 2019 as 201 Million, it is clear that the rate of mental health illness our nation suffers must be looked at with urgency. 

If 3 in 10 Nigerians suffer from mental illness, as the ratio above suggests, it is pertinent that we ask questions as to why there is little consideration for a matter as crucial as one severely threatening the population of the country.

I believe the questions asked and actions taken would pave way for the management of this phenomenon.

So what is your take on this? Please share your thoughts!

Lukeman Amin is a Volunteer with JDI Mental Health. He is a graduate of History and International Relations with a selfless passion for world politics and humanitarian affairs seeking to change the narrative and status quo of Nigeria by lending a helping hand through partnerships with well meaning organizations and individuals on the same course.