Insecurity and economic downturn predisposing Nigerians to mental illness

More and more Nigerians are prone to mental illness due to kidnappings, banditry and fuel shortages amid the country’s current economic difficulties, the Psychiatric Association of Nigeria has said.

Association President Prof. Taiwo James Obindo noted that stress is a major predisposing factor to mental illness, saying that if an individual finds it difficult to overcome the normal stresses of life, one cannot say that the person is in good mental health.

Citing data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Obindo said one in four Nigerians were at risk of developing a mental illness. 20-30% of Nigerians suffer from serious mental illness, which means that 40-60 million Nigerians suffer from mental illness.

Citing the current security and economic situation in the country, Obindo said the statistics are no longer realistic.

“Over the past few years, kidnappings, bombings, socio-economic downturn, even
fuel shortage, you know that stress is a major predisposing factor for mental illness. We all face challenges here and there. If a person is unable to fulfill their potential and overcome the normal stresses of life, they cannot be said to be healthy.

“If you compare it to anywhere in the world, we have a greater predisposition to developing mental illness and the figure that was given before must have gone up,” he said.

He stressed the need for President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the mental health bill, saying that the insanity law currently used in the country designates people with mental illness as insane, which he said , is quite stigmatizing.

“The Insanity Act considers people with mental illness to be aggressive like people who should be kept in an asylum, viewing them as a nuisance to the environment. So, rather than caring for the mentally ill, the law tended to protect the community against them and so we felt the law needed to be revised,” he explained.

The mental health bill, which was passed by the National Assembly, has been harmonized and sent to the president since 2020 for assent.

The psychiatrist noted that the bill looks at how to care for people with mental illness, looking at their needs, looking at what should be done, and of course even the practice of the psychiatrist, how the government should also fund and looking after the welfare of the mentally ill are also captured.

He added that the bill also seeks to decriminalize suicide attempts, saying people who attempt suicide are known to have mental illness.

“About 90% of those who attempt suicide are known to have mental health issues, and of those, 80% are due to depression. It’s been studied, it’s been documented. Let’s punish the sick mental because they are sick or should we seek to take care of them?

“We implore the good people of this nation. We hope and implore the whole nation for the bill to pass,” he said.

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