A former power minister, Professor Chinedu Nebo, on Monday said the federal and state governments have not provided medical attention to about 64 million Nigerians who suffer from mental illness.
Nebo spoke during the Second Public Lecture organised by the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, in collaboration with the West African College of Nursing.
Speaking on the theme ‘Psychiatric and mental health in Nigeria: challenges and prospects,’ Nebo noted that, according to medical scholars, out of a population of 160 million or thereabouts, “64 million Nigerians suffer from one form or the other of afflictions of mental illness,” which deserved attention.
Nebo, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, pointed out that, whereas government had done much in the area of primary health care, nothing had been done to address mental health challenges.
He also noted that Nigerians were not adequately informed about mental health issues.
“Nigerians still grapple with many social challenges, including poverty, high level of unemployment and other social pressures.
“The prevalence of these situations have been escalated by the fact that there is high level of poor knowledge and understanding of the malaise of mental health disorder and the positive treatments required by the growing population of mentally ill patients,” he said.
He identified causes of mental illness to include genetic composition, neurological and psychological experiences and environmental stresses.
He faulted what he described as “the belief that many Nigerians seem to hold that mental disorder is a result of supernatural forces and, therefore, only responds to cure through traditional practices and supernatural incantations.”
Nebo urged Nigerians to give up such beliefs and “face the realities of modern conditions, which in fact, produce the stresses that lead to different levels of mental conditions.”
The former power minister called for adequate funding for research and training of mental health manpower.
Nebo equally canvassed the provision of community based mental health care services, total integration of mental health care into the primary health care system and periodic review of legislation governing the care of the mentally ill.
The Chief Medical Director of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr. Jojo Onwukwe, said the institution has a staff strength of about 1000 workers, including eight consultant specialist psychiatrists, more than 400 psychiatric nurses and 27 resident doctors.