“We are in a society where the youth cannot achieve their full potentials because most of them are not employed. Unemployment leads to poverty and poor people are vulnerable to mental illness. That is why depression is on the increase, anxiety is on the increase,”
The World Mental Health Day was celebrated all over the world on Wednesday. Stakeholders in the global health sector marked the event, which was themed ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’, by holding discussions on issues concerning mental health and raising awareness about the causes, prevention and treatment of mental illness in their respective countries.
Here in Nigeria, a consultant psychiatrist at the Department of Behavioural Medicine, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos, Dr Coker Olurotimi, and another psychiatrist working with a government-owned hospital in Lagos, Dr Kehinde Shodimu, in separate interviews with our correspondent, blamed the rising cases of mental illness in the country on a number of factors, including poverty, the family history of patients, inadequate facilities and scarcity of qualified and competent doctors.
Shodimu noted that many Africans still regard mental illness as the result of a ‘spiritual attack’ rather than see it as a medical condition. “When hospitals were been put in place, the psychiatrists units were not given priority because people believed it was a spiritual and family matter,” she said.
She argued that although mental illness could be inherited in a family, it did not mean that any member of the family would necessarily suffer mental illness.
“Someone with a family history may be predisposed to mental illness, but drug addiction, socio-economic factors, poverty, childhood abuse and bad experiences determine psychological development,” Shodimu said.
Calling on government at all levels to build more psychiatrist hospitals and to train more doctors who could handle mental illness, she added, “In Nigeria, the number of consultant psychiatrists in Nigeria is between 100 and 300, on the average, to a population of over 160 million. This shows that we are deficient in terms of qualified medical personnel. The irony of this is that some consultants are walking on the streets looking for where to work and there is no place for them to work.”
On the other hand, describing mental health as the well-being of an individual, Olurotimi said, “When someone is able to maximise his full potential, cope with the normal stress of life, manage his thinking and emotions, contribute to his community, able to initiate and sustain relationships.”
He also identified the unemployment rate in the country as a major cause of mental illness among the youth.
“We are in a society where the youth cannot achieve their full potentials because most of them are not employed. Unemployment leads to poverty and poor people are vulnerable to mental illness. That is why depression is on the increase, anxiety is on the increase,” he said.