Leadership (Abuja)

19 February 2013

Nigeria: 18 Million Nigerians Are Mentally Sick - Psychiatrist

A United Kingdom-based consultant psychiatrist and CEO of Synapse Services, a centre for psychological medicine, Dr. Vincent Udenze, yesterday in Abuja stated that about 18 million Nigerians have mental disorder.

Quoting the World Health Organisation report, he said, 12 per cent of Nigerians have had symptoms to need diagnosis of mental disorders. That's about 18 million of the Nigerian population.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja on the role of the family system in the treatment of mental health, Udenze called for investment by the private sector in psychiatric medicine, to assist in reducing the trend of mental disorders in Nigeria.

He also noted that it is not only people who are mentally disordered and on the streets that are considered mentally ill.

According to him, early medical assistance still remained a very potent means of curtailing mental illness in the country and reduces expenditure on its treatment.

The psychiatrist further noted that mental illness constituted a stigma to the family of the victim more than the victim himself.

He also advocated a national service framework by government that would define and empower families affected by mental illness.

According to him, "When it comes to treatment, the family members are important in psychiatric medicine. Quality and better services for people are what matters.

"The mentally disordered people are being abused, stigmatized and neglected. In some areas, there is the belief that sleeping with a mentally disordered person has some spiritual significance. Private sector investment is urgently needed because, in a vast country like Nigeria, the two known centres are in Aro in Abeokuta and Yaba."

Using the 2005 population census, Udeze said the Federal Capital Territory, Abia, Nasarawa, Bayelsa, Ekiti and Gombe states "have populations similar to those with a diagnosable mental disorder."

The psychiatrist went to speak about the long-lasting nature of the treatment.

"It is not a 100 metre dash when it comes to treating mental Illness; sometimes, it lasts till life," he said. "It is very necessary to seek medical assistance at the early stage of mental illness. Mental health treatment is expensive. It is not good to wait when it is too late; it is cost effective. It is better to save yourself and the family of these expenses and consult your doctors early.

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