In Nigeria, those who suffer from mental health issues are still largely stigmatised.
The widespread condemnation has made it almost impossible for sufferers to speak out about their conditions and get appropriate help. Many families are not prepared to cope when a loved one has a mental illness for religious and sometimes just societal fears, most opt never to speak about it.
Although there are no accurate figures to measure the number of Nigerians who suffer from some form of mental illnesses, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that four percent of Nigerians suffer from depression alone.
So why are we not talking about it? At home? In schools? At work? In government!
Within healthcare, there is a lack of coordination between mental and general health services. Mental health histories of individuals do not routinely get recorded and there are no confidential electronic patient record systems in existence in Nigeria.
The absence of Accident and Emergency (A&E) services where individuals who are at risk of suicide can freely walk into is another cause for concern. Although the Lagos State Government has provided suicide helplines – 08058820777 and
09030000741 – through which residents can ask questions, make inquiries and seek help from professionals early enough to allow for appropriate intervention in a bid to stem the rise of suicides in the
state, a lot still needs to be done.
Aside from the Mental Health Policy document, which was formulated in 1991, there is no current government policy on mental health. And, although a bill for the establishment of a Mental Health Act was introduced in 2003 and re-introduced to the National Assembly in 2013, it is yet to be passed into law.
A lack of training and research in the area of mental health; lack of support for mental health NGOs; lack of adequate infrastructure; low numbers of professional personnel; training, and research, and the never-ending discrimination, stigmatization and abuse of victims of mental illnesses are some of the biggest issues that need to be tackled for us to achieve a mentally-stable nation.
The journey to a mentally-healthy Nigeria begins with our collective efforts. If you think you or someone you know may
be suffering in silence, please contact the numbers shared here.