As Nigeria observed World Mental Health Day on Tuesday along with the rest of the world, the federal government highlighted the significance of addressing mental illness in the country, describing it as a concealed epidemic requiring greater attention,leadership reports.
During a press briefing in Abuja to mark the 2023 World Mental Health Day, themed “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right,” Professor Mohammed Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health, emphasized that health encompasses not only physical well-being but also social and mental well-being.
He pointed out, “The fact that we are celebrating this day signals that we still have a lot of work to do to bring that aspect of our understanding into what really health is. We have a hidden epidemic of mental diseases, globally, 15 percent of the burden of diseases in our country is a significant cause of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality due to mental ill-health.”
Pate underscored the bidirectional relationship between physical and mental health, explaining that physical diseases can contribute to mental health issues, and vice versa. He noted that much of what is observed in diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases can be influenced by stress, anxiety, and depression. However, these mental health aspects often go unnoticed.
The minister emphasized that improving access, affordability, and the quality of mental healthcare should be a critical aspect of the country’s healthcare strategy. He also mentioned that guidelines for the recently passed mental health law would be developed, and resources would be allocated for mental health services.
Dr. Tunji Alausa, the Minister of State for Health, disclosed that the ministry is working on integrating mental care into Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) and expanding mental health services beyond counseling in PHC centers.
Additionally, Maryam Rabi’u from the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Abuja emphasized the importance of mental health and how it should be managed, stating, “Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It encompasses the individual’s emotional state, cognitive functioning, and ability to manage stress, build healthy relationships, and make decisions. Good mental health is essential for overall well-being and can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia can impact a person’s mental well-being and may require treatment and support. It’s important to prioritize and take care of your mental health, just as you would your physical health.”