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Mental health: Asido calls for youth volunteers

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Asido foundation has called on youths to volunteer in raising awareness about mental wellbeing in order to fill the gap in provision of mental healthcare in Nigeria.

During the foundation’s August Edition of Asido Foundation Online Interactive Monthly Community Engagement Series on Telegram, one of its facilitators a medical practitioner and mental health advocate Dr Bashir Yahaya urged Nigerians to join the foundation in promoting mental wellbeing by singing the #unashamed pledge online.

Yahaya who is also a Director of Monitoring and Evaluation at Asido Foundation said mental health is an aspect of health that was given less attention, noting that youths have a role to play in bridging the huge gap created in the subsector.

 “Regardless of the challenges facing the field of mental health in Nigeria, the youth population has a very pivotal role to play in improving their wellbeing. They also have a role in improving wellbeing of the people around them and using their limitless potentials to turn the country and the world around for the better. Tiny drops make an ocean and very little actions can make the world a better place for us all,’’ he said.

Yahaya noted that “There are few institutions equipped to handle mental health challenges with only about 300 psychiatrists to an estimated population of 200 million people. That means to every psychiatrist, there are about 670,000 Nigerians; a number realistically impossible to be adequately catered for.’’

He also added that in the past few years, there had been a drastic increase in the number of patients presented at the few centres equipped to handle mental health challenges in the country, News Agency of Nigeria reported.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every four people will have one form of mental health challenge in their lives; and one in five people have an ongoing mental health challenge.

“If it is estimated that one in four Nigerians have mental health challenges (about 50 million people), this implies that about 45 million Nigerians with mental health challenges will never get optimal care”, Yahaya said.

“Although reliable data on mental health in Nigeria is unavailable, it is estimated that about 20-30 per cent of the population experiences one form of mental health challenge or the other, and with such estimates, it is particularly disturbing that in Nigeria, there are only eight Federal neuro-psychiatric institutions and a handful of others (Teaching Hospitals and FMCs).

 “With all the outlined deficits in provision of optimal mental healthcare, WHO believes that at best, only 10 per cent of all mental health challenges will get adequate attention. A good number of these people are left roaming the streets termed “mad”, some tied down in religious homes and traditional healers and other places where they experience unspeakable degrees of inhuman treatment and human rights abuses,’’ he said.

On what could be done to create awareness on mental health, Yahaya emphasized on public enlightenment, and the need to educate children from homes about the signs and teaching them to not discriminate against people with mental health challenges is also very important.

 “The first and one of the most important thing would be talking more openly about the existence of mental health problems and how they are not spiritual attacks as most Nigerians would tag them. We also need to correct our friends, family members and colleagues when they say inaccurate things about mental health,’’ he added.

Asido Foundation is an NGO founded by Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, a consultant Psychiatrist at the University College Hospital, Ibadan.

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