About 57 million Nigerians have mental issues — Health Ministry

August 3, 2019
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With cases of suicide in the country on the rise in recent times with youths accounting for most of the victims, the Federal Ministry of youths has attributed the recent surge to mental health issues compounded by worsening economic pressures.

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, about 20-30% of Nigerians suffer from mental illness. Taking the upper limit, this implies that about 57 million Nigerians of a population of c.190m have mental health issues.

Despite this high statistics, the Nigerian government gives little or no attention to mental health and there are gross misconceptions or in many cases, a total lack of awareness on mental health issues amongst the populace.

The President of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria, Dr Taiwo Sheikh had in an interview, said that Nigeria has only about 250 psychiatrists providing mental health care. In addition to that, our deeply religious views also make us believe mental health issues can be solved with prayers.

That said, many have linked the recent spike in suicide cases to the worsening economic situation pre and post the economic recession. The high rate of unemployment and the squeeze in purchasing power of consumers following several rounds of Naira depreciation amidst double-digit inflation rate have left many Nigerians extremely poor.

According to data from the UNDP for 2017, Nigeria had the highest percentage of people living in multidimensional poverty both in the rural and urban areas when compared with a few emerging market peers.

It has become pertinent that Nigeria develops and implements policies addressing mental health issues. Indeed, integrating mental health into primary health care should help in combating the frightening increase of mental health among the youth and working population of Nigeria.

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