Only 2 percent of neuropsychiatric patients uses Mental Health Services in Nigeria – Dr Aishatu Armiya’u

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By Joy Odor

Dr. Aishatu Yusha’u Armiya’u, a mental health expert from the Department of Psychiatry , Jos University Teaching Hospital JUTH has disclosed that only Two percent of people with neuropsychiatric problem use mental health services in Nigeria .

According to her, although there are effective treatments for mental health disorders, many people turn to traditional or spiritual healers for treatment of mental distress and disorders.

Dr. Armiya’u who spoke at a zoom roundtable discussion on the theme “The Nigeria Mental Health and Psychosocial Support System (MHPSS) in the Era of Emergency: COVID-19 Challenges and Implications regretted that mental health services is available in Nigeria but grossly inadequate.

The event which was organized by Charis Healthcare and Community Support Initiative (Jos) and Funded by Rosa Luxemberg Stiftung had 57 participants from Nigeria and outside Nigeria with people from Ghana, South Africa, Malasia and Dubai .

She argued that the public health facilities, local NGOs and private
hospitals are mainly involved in the provision of specialized care to those that require psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy in emergency and non-emergency situations in Nigeria.

Speaking on the way forward, the mental health expert suggest that Nigerian government should address MHPSS of people affected by the on-going
crises and layout plan for future emergencies in the country as priority health and social issues that require immediate solution.

According to her, this will be achieved by accelerating the integration of mental health into primary-level healthcare services which might help to scale up the process across the country, coupled with the existence of a taskforce that will coordinate, plan, adapt, and implement guidelines, using important stakeholders such as the Division of mental health within the Ministry of Health, NEMA, Red Cross, CBOs, FBOs, Academia, media, national and international NGOs involved in MHPSS interventions.

“The taskforce of the MHPSS should undertake periodic situation analysis in Nigeria, development of detailed national strategic plan and frameworks for its implementation, and monitoring and evaluation, as well as the development of a comprehensive data on mental health. It can also create awareness; build local capacity in terms of skills, knowledge, tools, systems and structures; and community engagement. ”

She further added that the Nigerian government should establish a system that promotes community-level continuity of care and home-based care or support of self-care (e.g. clear referral
system, especially back-referral), SMS reminders to patients to take their drugs and working with the local community to protect those with severe mental health
impairments can be included as part of the primary mental health services .

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