30% of Nigerians suffer mental illness –FG

The Federal Ministry of Health says about 20 to 30 per cent of Nigerians suffer from mental illness.

The Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, said this at the Mental Health Action Committee and Stakeholders’ Workshop in Abuja on Monday.

Abdullahi said with a population of about 200 million, Nigeria had a high rate of mental illness. This implies that Nigeria has about 60 million persons with mental illnesses

He said, “There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.

“Mental disorders include: Depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders including autism.

“In Nigeria, an estimated 20 to 30 per cent of our populations are believed to suffer from mental disorders. This is a very significant number considering Nigeria has an estimated population of over 200 million.

“Unfortunately, the attention given to mental health disorders in Nigeria is inadequate. The level of awareness of the Nigerian public on mental health issues is also understandably poor, and with lots of misconceptions.”

Also speaking, Director of Public Health, Dr Evelyn Ngige, said mental illness could destabilise a person more than HIV, heart disease, accidents, and wars combined.

She said Nigeria’s mental health statistics was too bad, adding that the high rate of suicide in places like Lagos may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Ngige added, “In Nigeria, an estimated 20 -30 per cent of our populations are believed to suffer from mental disorders, which is a very significant number. Considering the current economic situation in the country, the above statistics are damning and in the light of the recent suicidal episodes recorded in parts of Lagos (which are obviously a tip of the iceberg), it forces a rethink in our general attitudes to mental health and questions our current maintenance of the status quo.”

The director said the committee on mental health had failed to achieve its goal because of lack of funds.

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