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FG says around 30 million Nigerians mentally sick

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The Federal Government estimates that around 20% to 30% of Nigeria’s estimated 200 million population suffer from mental disorders.

This was disclosed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, at the Mental Health Action Committee and Stakeholders’ Workshop in Abuja on Monday, November 12, 2018.

He lamented about the inadequacy of the attention that mental disorders get in the country and advocated for better awareness in the country.

He said, “There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.

“Mental disorders include: Depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders including autism.

“In Nigeria, an estimated 20%-30% of our populations are believed to suffer from mental disorders. This is a very significant number considering Nigeria has an estimated population of over 200 million.

“Unfortunately, the attention given to mental health disorders in Nigeria is inadequate. The level of awareness of the Nigerian public on mental health issues is also understandably poor, and with lots of misconceptions.”

Abdullahi also estimated that more Nigerians will be disabled by psychological challenges than complications arising from HIV/AIDS, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined by the year 2020.

“This is an astonishing statistic and possesses serious questions as to why mental health disorders are not given the needed attention that it currently receives,” he said.

How to battle mental illness in Nigeria

Explaining how Nigeria can tackle the prevalence of mental disorders in the country, Abdullahi advocated for the establishment of  a body at the Ministry of Health to focus on mental health issues.

“Some of the pertinent issues is how to address and dialogue with stakeholders on the burden of mental health, intimate them on the mental health policy, identify ways to fast track the enactment of the Mental Health Act and modalities for resuscitating the National mental health action committee for coordinating the activities of various stakeholders on mental health and Psychosocial supports in Nigeria,” he said.

The ministry’s Director of Public Health, Dr Evelyn Ngige, said the damning statistics should force a rethink in Nigeria’s general attitudes towards mental health.

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