MAURICE OKAFOR, Enugu

Former Power Minister, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, yesterday in Enugu rated governments at various levels low in the area of psychiatric and mental health care.

He said this was worrisome considering that some medical scholars have revealed that in a population of 160 million or thereabout, “64 million Nigerians suffer from one form or the other of afflictions of mental illness- deserving attention”.

Nebo spoke as a guest lecturer at the 2nd Public Lecture organized by the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu in collaboration with the West African College of Nursing.

Speaking on the theme: “Psychiatric and Mental Health in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects”, the former minister said whereas government had done much in the area of Primary Health Care, much was yet to be done in the area of psychiatric and mental health.

“I will confess that while Government has built modern diagnostic centres, dialysis and ophthalmological centres, and constructed more than 710 Primary Health Care Centres throughout our political wards in Enugu State, we are only beginning to give priority towards optimizing and modernizing our Psychiatric Mental Health Institutions in the State to meet required demands.

“Despite the efforts of all levels of government in the medical sector of our nation, Nigerians still grapple with many social challenges, including poverty, high level of unemployment and other social pressures.

“The prevalence of these situations have been escalated by the fact that there is high level of poor knowledge and understanding of the malaise of mental health disorder and the positive treatments required by the growing population of mentally ill patients,” he stated.

He identified causes of mental illness to include genetic composition, early development, neurological and psychological experiences and environmental stresses.

While calling for increased awareness on the treatment and management of mental disorder, Nebo said “the belief that many Nigerians seem to hold that mental disorder is a result of supernatural forces and, therefore, only responds to cure through traditional practices and supernatural incantations- must give way and face the realities of modern conditions, which in fact, produce the stresses that lead to different level of mental conditions”.

He called for adequate funding for research and training of mental health manpower, stressing that “this will increase our output of psychiatric nurses and create more positions for residency training in psychiatric”.

Nebo equally advocated for community based mental health care services, total integration of the mental health care into the Primary Health Care System and periodic review of legislation governing the care of the mentally ill.

The Chief Medical Director of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr. Jojo Onwukwe said the institution was the only one of its kind, East of the Niger, with staff strength of 1000 workers, including eight consultants specialist psychiatrists, more than 400 psychiatric nurses and 27 resident doctors.

Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was represented at the event by his commissioner for special duty, Mrs. Rita Mba, while former Governor Sullivan Chime, represented by his son, Nnamdi Chime, was inducted into the institution’s hall of fame.