Shocking! FG says 60 million Nigerians are mad

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*says more people will die of mental illness than AIDS, heart attacks, accidents, war by 2020

*calls for the enactment of the Mental Health Act

Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Mashi Abdullahi has raised the alarm that no fewer than 60 million Nigerians suffer from mental health disorders (madness).

Abdullahi who was represented by Mfon Bassey, Senior Technical Assistant to the Permanent Secretary made the disclosure yesterday in Abuja at a workshop on the Mental Health Action Committee Stakeholders Meeting with the theme: “Strategies to Revitalize Mental Health Service in Nigeria”.

He attributed the prevalence of mental health disorders in the country to inadequate attention by government to the illness, awareness and misconception by the public adding that more people will be disabled by psychological challenges than complications arising from HIV/AIDS, heart disease, accidents and wars combined by the year 2020.

According to him, the ways to address the burden include fast-tracking the enactment of the Mental Health Act as well as the resuscitation of the National Mental Health Action Committee for the coordination of stakeholders’ activities on mental health and psychosocial supports in the country.

He said: “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.

“By 2020, it is estimated that common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse-related disorders, will disable more people than complications arising from HIV/AIDS, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined! 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.

“A policy for mental health services delivery was developed with several key provisions of the policy, including establishing a body at the Federal 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 added.

The ministry’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Evelyn Ngige, said that the Nigeria’s statistics on mental health disorders is alarming considering the current economic hardships in the country.

She said, “Considering the current economic situation in the country, the above statistics are damning and in the light of the recent suicidal episodes recorded in parts of Lagos (which are obviously is a tip of the iceberg), it forces a rethink in our general attitudes to mental health and questions our current maintenance of the status quo”, she added.

Representatives of World Health Organization, WHO, Lead on Communicable and Non-communicable Diseases Intervention, Dr. Rex Mpaazange, also decried Nigeria’s high burden of mental health disorders noting that people with severe mental disorders experience moderate to severe depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders and generally have a life-expectancy 10-20 years shorter than the general population.

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