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Why more Nigerians experience mental health challenges -Akume

The Federal Government has linked the recent spike in rate of mental health challenges like depression, fear and anxiety among Nigerians to the outbreak of…

The Federal Government has linked the recent spike in rate of mental health challenges like depression, fear and anxiety among Nigerians to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, said this on Wednesday in Abuja at the launch of a mental health helpline project called “The mind wheel project”, organised by the ministry and the Sunshine Series Organisation (SSO), aimed at assisting mentally challenged patients to receive medical and psychological care.

The minister said the project and the launch of a ‘toll-free line-112’ was to help the mentally challenged persons in the country to reduce mental distress, especially resulting from the effects of COVID-19.

“According the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every four Nigerians, comprising about 50 million people are suffering from one form of mental illness or the other. The pandemic alone has led to an increase in mental health concerns, especially fear, worry, anxiety and depression.

“This presupposes that many people in Nigeria or our friends, colleagues or family members are experiencing mental challenges directly or indirectly. This historic launch of the Mind Wheel Toll-Free Line is a free call line aimed at providing a sustainable social change and development in mental health and wellbeing of Nigerians,” Akume said.

He said his ministry among others and the SSO was set to provide Nationwide free tele-counselling services, following the adverse and worsening psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons infected and affected.

200 psychiatrists for over 200m Nigerians unacceptable

Speaking earlier, the founder, Sunshine Series Mind Wellness Organisation, Dr. Aisha Bubah, said the project which began in 2020, has reached over 5,000 Nigerians, directly and indirectly through counselling, capacity building, online webinars and psychic educational materials.

According to her, the project needed more partners as mental health had suffered severe underfunding globally, especially in low and middle-income countries.

She said that an estimated 20-30 percent Nigerians are believed to suffer from mental disorders with WHO estimating that less than 10 percent have access to treatment.

“There is an estimated number of about 200 Psychiatrists to the over 200m Nigerian population, with a low figure of other mental health workers like psychologists, social workers, lay counsellors. This makes it hard for Nigeria to meet demands if we had everyone seeking access to mental healthcare.

“The world economy loses up to $1trn in productivity due to common mental disorders like depression and anxiety. By 2030, it is estimated that the world could lose up to $16trn as a result of mental health crisis. Suicide is among the leading causes of death especially among teens every 40 seconds, a person dies by suicide,” she said.

Also, the Chairman National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig-Gen. Mohammad Marwa (Retd), represented by Mrs. Precious Oyutu, noted that mental health issues had been neglected in Nigeria for a long time now, hence the need to pay attention to it, especially at this time the world had faced with COVID-19 challenges including Nigeria.

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