The BMJ Global Health blog
Mental health is neglected and stigmatized globally and across societies, in spite of its high burden. Moreover, in Nigeria, mental health is not just neglected but remains completely absent from key health sector documents. There is a glimmer of hope though, in the form of a revised mental health policy from 2013, which mentions that mental health and wellbeing is an “inalienable right of every Nigerian” and talks about the government’s general plans to tackle stigmatization of mental health.
A recent paper found that cultural issues and poor understanding of mental health issues are important barriers of access to mental health services in Nigeria. Coupled together with stigma and negative attitude in the community and the belief that mental health originates from supernatural causes like witchcraft, this means that sometimes those affected with mental health issues blame themselves for the disease, leading to self-stigmatization.
A big challenge in Nigeria for tackling stigmatization is that the attitude of primary healthcare workers towards people with mental health problems is hardly different from that of the general population. It calls for training of healthcare workers on various mental health issues that will lead to better mental health services. This is important because another study published during this period found that patient’s satisfaction with mental health services correlates with better quality of life.
Yet another recent study found that three out of four female patients with schizophrenia had been abused by an intimate partner, further complicating the lives of women affected by mental health problems.
While there is a lot that needs to be done on the provision of mental health services, what these studies published in the first half of 2016 indicate is that the priority should be to improve mental health literacy across Nigeria.
Aderemi Oyedeji trained as a family physician and has a special interest in mental health.
Competing interests: I have read the BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare that I do not have any conflict of interests.
Anja Choon works for the German Red Cross and is an editor at BugBitten, a BioMed Central blog.
Competing interests: I have read the BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare that I have present or recent links to the German Red Cross, BugBitten, Nigeria Health Watch, the University of Münster and the School of Oriental and African Studies. I declare that I do not have any other conflict of interests.