Mental health experts have raised an alarm over increased cases of mental disorder in Nigeria and have called for adequate facilities and personnel to curb it.
Mental disorder, also called mental illness, psychological disorder, or psychiatric disorder, is mental or behavioural pattern that causes either suffering or poor ability to function in ordinary life.
The causes of mental disorder are often unclear but common causes include drug abuse, depression, dementia, schizophrenia, as well as stigma and discrimination.
The mental health experts who expressed their views in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria said about one in four Nigerians have one form of mental disorder or the other.
Professor Oye Guruje, a psychiatrist with University of Ibadan, said government should give priority attention to the management of mental disorder because its burden outweighed that of HIV.
He said “mental illness is one of the major contributors to disease burden globally; it is the sixth largest burden worldwide and this is much more burdensome than HIV.
“In Nigeria, one out of seven persons will have serious mental illnesses, while one in four persons will have some form of mental disorder; and this is a conservative estimate,” he said.
Mr. Guruje, who said that mental illnesses could be treated with the right care, noted that “every mental disorder has some form of treatment; but whether the person will fully recover depends on the type of illness.
“For example, dementia has no effective treatment yet, while there are effective treatments for depression, including non-medication like psychological treatment.’’
He added that while there were no specific causes of some mental illnesses, some might be hereditary, while some could be due to stress or lifestyle.
On his part, Oyewole Adeoye, the National Coordinator of Mental Health Awareness Foundation of Nigeria, said mental health policies should recognise and address issues that affect mental health.
He said “there is increased incidences of mental illnesses in Nigeria and the society is yet to take full control of the fact.
“Mental disorder is associated with societal vices, socio-economic pressures, emotional problems and political injustice like terrorism.”
Mr. Adeoye said people with mental health problems should not become outcasts in the society, rather, they should be treated like any other form of disease and accorded respect and dignity.
In Bauchi, stakeholders involved in the management of persons suffering from mental disorder have called for adequate funding to enable them to discharge their duties satisfactorily.
Some of them said that most rehabilitation centres meant for drug abuse victims were dilapidated, with little or no facilities.
They said such centres were supposed to be places where victims of drug abuse were kept off such drugs, counselled, cured, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society “without stigmatisation.’’
They, however, added that funds provided for the feeding and medical care of inmates of such centres were grossly inadequate, stressing that youths formed substantial percentage of victims, cutting across both gender.
Uche Iyke, the Deputy Commander in charge of Operations and Intelligence, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), said that in the past, most addicts dealt in illicit drugs like Indian hemp but that they have now shifted to legitimate drugs like cough syrups and analgesics.
He said the command had a rehabilitation centre which hosted drug addicts on the request of parents or relations of such addicts whose cases had not attained the level of madness.
He added that the centre had introduced skills acquisition programme for inmates in carpentry, tailoring, plumbing, mechanics, electrical works and computer repairs.
The deputy commander said the state government had provided trainers and placed them on monthly salary of N10,000, but added that for the past one year, the stipends had not been paid, making the trainers to withdraw their services.
He stated that the training facilities provided many years ago were now dilapidated and needed to be replaced but there was no fund to do that.
Mr. Iyke said that apart from the skills acquisition training facilities, even physical structures at the rehabilitation centre were in dire need of rehabilitation.
Aliyu Adole, the Commander of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Gombe State, said the Agency frequently received people with mental disorder who needed rehabilitation, adding, however, that the centre was ill-equipped and rendered only skeletal services “but we still receive the few we can accommodate.”
He said most people with mental disorder nowadays were products of drug addiction, noting that the major challenge facing the Agency was that parents and relations often brought those affected very late.
“In most cases, the addicts are brought to us after the situation had gone out of control and family members are threatened by the affected persons,” he said.
Janys Maiyamba, the Director, Child Development, Gombe State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, said the ministry had been taking care of people with mental disorder.
He said “we do not allow them to roam the streets because they can be violent. We often liaise with security agents to get them arrested, thereafter, we treat them by giving First Aid and psycho-social support and then try to trace their relations.”
A female relative to a someone suffering from mental disorder who pleaded not to be mentioned said some of her brothers had mental disorder.
She said “we are victims of broken home; our mother left our father when we were very small and influence from peer groups made two of my brothers to become drug addicts.
“As I am talking to you, the other one is on admission at Maiduguri Neuro Psychiatric Hospital.’’
Ona Ogulegwu, the Commander of NDLEA in Borno, also noted that drug abuse was a major cause of mental disorder in the state.
He said “when you look around, you will see many lunatics roaming about the street without any care and that is because the state does not have a rehabilitation centre to keep such people.
“Here in Borno NDLEA, we only have a counselling centre where drug peddlers are kept for some time. Can you imagine in the whole of Borno, we only have two psychiatric hospitals where such people are kept?.
“As a matter of fact, it is only the Federal Neuropsychiatric hospital that is functioning, we are therefore urging government to establish more rehabilitation centres that can accommodate such persons.’’
Yahya Imam, the Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Borno, lamented that the security challenges in the state were mainly responsible for the increase in number of people with mental disorder.
He said NOA had been sensitising the people, especially youth on the dangers of illicit drugs, yet the number of persons involved kept increasing partly due to the insecurity situation and other reasons best known to the victims.
The Executive Secretary, Jigawa State Rehabilitation Board, Ibrahim Rabakaya, said that apart from heredity, drug abuse among youths was a major cause of mental disorder in the state, adding that over 90 per cent of the addicts were males.
He said that the Board had two rehabilitation centres in the state; one in Birniwa Local Government Area for females and another in Gumel Local Government Area for males.
According to him, the Board also has a Psychiatric Hospital in Kazaure and that all the rehabilitation centres and the psychiatric hospital are being operated by the state government.
Mr. Rabakaya said people with mental disorder were first treated at the hospital before being sent to one of the centres for rehabilitation.
He identified the lack of psychiatric doctors to take care of the patients as a major challenge, adding, however, that lunatics were not allowed to roam the streets in the state.
He said skill acquisition programmes had been introduced to help them learn trades immediately they started recovering from their predicament.
Elsewhere in Adamawa, the office of the NDLEA also said drug abuse among youth was a major cause of mental disorder in the state.
Yakubu Kibo, the Commander of the Agency in the state said about 90 per cent of mentally deranged persons roaming the streets were addicts of Indian hemp and psychotropic substances.
He said “our records show that most of the mentally-ill persons in the state are young people who happen to be involved in abuse of illicit drugs.
“The agency has only one ill-equipped rehabilitation centre in Yola, where inmates are counselled and rehabilitated.’’
Meanwhile, Danladi Yunusa, an officer with the Adamawa State Department of Social Welfare, said that due to the lack of funding, homes established across the state to take care of mentally sick persons had to be shut down.
Mr. Yunusa confirmed that for the past eight years, no budget was allocated to the department to take care of mentally ill people in the state.
The officer said “apart from the lack of funding, the department also lacked adequate staff to take care of such persons.
“The two places where those affected were being taken for therapy and rehabilitation were the psychiatric hospital and the NDLEA Rehabilitation Centre, Yola.”