January 9 Collective, a socio-political group of professionals, has called on governments across Nigeria to pay more attention to and increase funding for mental health.
The call was made by the association’s Captain, Loye Amsat while declaring open its 11th Anniversary lecture where he noted that the rise in mental health cases was a cause for concern.
Also lending her voice to the urgent need for intervention was the guest speaker, Oluseyi Elizabeth Odudimu, a UK-based mental health expert and CEO, Stop Mental Illness Foundation ( SMIF) who delivered a paper on the topic: “Mental Health: Non- Governmental Organisations (MHNGOs) Role in Nigeria’s Health Sector”.
According to Odudimu, state and federal governments need to examine why there is a rise in mental health cases and take steps to reduce the incidents of the stigmatisation of mental health patients.
She noted that mental illness was like physical health challenges that can be healed with proper care.
According to her, the growing problems in the mental health sector include:inadequate mental health care facilities to meet the needs of our large population, zero budget or low investment in mental health care services, unavailability of education and relevant training materials at national and sub-national levels and failure to integrate mental healthcare to primary healthcare.
She noted that Mental Health NGOs like SMIF have played a major role in stemming the tide by providing treatment services, educational programmes for public and community mental health educators, advocacy, empowerment and promotion of equal right to treatment.
She noted that despite their best efforts, MHNGOs still face challenges such as scarcity of mental health professionals, insufficient facilities and inaccessible services, financial and resources constraints, the criminalization of attempted suicide victims and policy makers giving less priority to mental healthcare issues.
She stated further that mental healthcare can be improved if governments and other stakeholders can work together for policy improvement, integration of mental health care to primary health care, political buy in and urgent bio psychosocial research to understand the cause, course and outcome of mental disorders in Nigeria.
Odudimu rounded off in an optimistic note when she affirmed that there are indications that things will get better in future with the signing of the Mental Health Bill into law.