30% of Nigerians Suffer from Mental Disorders – Neuro-psychiatrists

A well-known consultant-psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Dr. Lucky Onofa, has warned that about 30% of the Nigerian population suffers from various forms of mental disorder, as he listed five ways through which traits of mental illness could be noticed in an individual.


He expressed serious concern on the impact of mental health on an individual, noting that the illness usually has negative impacts on victims and those around them, including friends and relations because of negative perception, as they usually see "the victims as strange and hard to understand."


Describing mental illness as a problem that affects all human beings, Dr. Onofa explained that the attention currently being given to it is due to the fact that it is becoming universal, common, increasing and a great burden on the society.


Giving a statistical breakdown of mental health cases across the world, Dr.Onofa said while "more than 450 million people suffer from mental illness worldwide, one in every four people has some mental illness globally."


In addition, he said while over 300 million persons suffer depression and over 110 million battle with alcohol and drug abuse, no fewer than 20-30% of Nigerians suffer from mental disorders.


According to him, mental illness could be observed when a person starts exhibiting certain behaviour, which later culminates in abnormalities, thereby affecting his or her thoughts, reasoning, emotions, behaviour and cognition.


Dr. Onofa gave the hint while delivering a lecture entitled "Promoting Mental Health Awareness for a Productive Lifestyle" held on Thursday 25th April, 2019 for academic staff of the institution, was the concluding part of the health talk earlier organized for their non-teaching counterparts on Wednesday, 17th April, 2019 by Counselling and Human Development Centre, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo.


He listed causes of mental illness to include social, psychological and Biological factors and further grouped them into predisposing (vulnerability), precipitating and perpetuating factors stating that the illness, which is treatable could be attended to through potent medications, psychological and social treatments.


The Head, Directorate of Community & Primary Care Mental Health Services, Federal Neuropsychiatric hospital, Abeokuta also spoke about depression, saying no fewer than 3.9% of the Nigerian population was diagnosed as having the illness in year 2015. 


Using Nigerian students as case study, the medical expert highlighted factors found to have caused the illness among the students to include accommodation problem, large family size, problems of female gender, financial constraint, academic failure and substance abuse.


On common mental health problems usually observed among academic staff, Dr. Onofa identified them to include issues arising from life events and pressure of work. He noted that the issues if not properly addressed, could have negative impact on individual well-being and level of productivity.


The consultant Neuro-psychiatrist also spoke extensively on other issues like cases of suicide, alcohol and substance use, effect of drugs on the brain as well as sleep problems, anxiety disorders and psychological symptoms anxiety.


On early warning signs of mental health problems, Dr. Onofa listed them to include poor or too much sleep, gradual neglect of self-care and hygiene, change in dressing as well as withdrawal from social activities and people.


Others are food refusal or overeating, gradual neglect of work, school or other activities, change in behavior such as keeping of new set of friends, staying out late, smoking, drinking and use of drugs to mention but  a few.


While making strong case for prevention of mental health problems among academic staff, the medical practitioner said this was necessary in order to prevent frequent absenteeism from class, strained interpersonal relationship, poor preparation for lectures, difficulty in imparting knowledge, low productivity and resignation.


On how to address the problem, Dr. Onofa advocated what he called ’macro intervention strategy’ which would focus on provisions of improved nutrition, housing, access to education, strengthening community networks, reducing misuse of addictive substances, intervening after disaster and prevention of violence.


Also, the guest speaker for the non-teaching members of Staff, Dr. Abiodun Agara, a Chief Consultant Psychiatrist at the Ondo State Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Akure gave an insight into what mental health advocacy is, the reason for mental health advocacy, issue of stigma in mental health, effects of stigma, types of mental health advocacy, advocacy actions and benefits of mental health advocacy.

Earlier in his address, the Provost of the College, Dr. Samuel Akintunde, represented by the Chairman, Committee of Deans and Dean, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Dr. David Falade congratulated the organizers of the seminar, advising participants to make judicious use of the knowledge that would be gained.


Dr. Akintunde also thanked the medical expert from the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta for coming to the institution and reiterated his administration's readiness to support programmes and activities that would add values to lives of staff and students of the institution.


Also in her address of welcome, the Director, Counselling and Human Development Centre, ACE, Dr. A.O Oyinloye explained that the seminar was organized to educate academic staff of the institution on issues relating to their health, with the views of enhancing their productivity.


She pointed out the fact that the sensitization programme became very important and imminent due to the rising cases of mental disorderliness and the cases of suicide and suicide attempts by a lot of people in recent times.

She expressed appreciation to Management of the College for the support given to her centre, pledging that the unit would not relent in organizing programmes that would elevate the institution to higher level and improve the lots of staff and students.


The event which held at the Babatunde Ipaye lecture theatre was attended by dignitaries from within and outside the College among whom were the Registrar, Mrs. Olufisayo Fakorede who was represented by the Deputy Registrar Staff welfare and Pension, Mr. Gabriel Awe; Bursar, Mr. Ganiyu Abdul; representative of the College Acting Librarian, Mr. Akinade Awoyemi.


Also present were staff from the CHDC, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta; College Information and Public Relations Unit; Provost's office as well as academic staff from various schools in the College.