The rise in cases of mental disorders worrying, deplore the psychiatrists

The Psychiatric Association of Nigeria has called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Ret’d) to give his assent to the Mental Health Bill, which it says has been passed by the National Assembly.

He described the rise in cases of mental illness among Nigerians as a national crisis and called for the integration of mental health into primary health care to improve access and tackle stigma.

The association’s president, Professor Taiwo Obindo, who made the call in an interview with our correspondent on Friday, said the bill would regulate the practice of psychiatry, how people with mental illness would be treated with humanity and would constitute an improvement over that promulgated in 1902 and revised in 1958.

The House of Representatives on Thursday had instructed its Health Facilities and Health Services Committee to work with the Federal Ministry of Health to improve mental health facilities across Nigeria.

A member of the House, Uchechukwu Nnam-Obi, said the House was concerned that Nigeria had only 130 psychiatrists with more than 20 million citizens suffering from mental disorders, adding that the continued absence of a legal framework on the mental health in the country would cause the situation to escalate.

But Obindo said: “Certainly the issue of mental illness is a major challenge. These numbers (WHO numbers) were actually obtained a few years ago before the recent incessant kidnappings, Boko Haram attacks and all that. You can be sure the figure would be higher now.

He said: “The mental health bill is on his table (the president) and all we can do is raise awareness for the signing of this bill. The law that governs mental health and practice is that enacted in 1902 and revised in 1958. So this needs to be changed and we should have a new law that governs how, where and who will access care.

Also speaking, a professor of psychiatry at Ahmadu Bello University, Prof. Taiwo Sheikh, and a consultant psychiatrist, Dr. Arit Esangbedo, identified the brain drain, lack of facilities, inequality in the health sector health and insecurity as factors responsible for the lack of adequate manpower to provide mental health services in the country.

They also described the situation as a burden on the few mental health workers available across the country.

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