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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 124-125

Mental health system in Nigeria: Current scenarios and future recommendations

1 Department of Human Kinetics and Health Education, University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria
2 Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission22-Oct-2022
Date of Decision30-Nov-2022
Date of Acceptance13-Dec-2022
Date of Web Publication16-May-2023

Correspondence Address:
Mr. Pallerla Srikanth
Department of Psychiatric Social Work, NIMHANS, Bengaluru, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jihs.jihs_14_22

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How to cite this article:
Emmanuel CO, Dodoh MT, Favour CC, Srikanth P. Mental health system in Nigeria: Current scenarios and future recommendations. J Integr Health Sci 2022;10:124-5

How to cite this URL:
Emmanuel CO, Dodoh MT, Favour CC, Srikanth P. Mental health system in Nigeria: Current scenarios and future recommendations. J Integr Health Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 2];10:124-5. Available from: https://www.jihs.in/text.asp?2022/10/2/124/377144

Dear Editor,

The struggle to maintain a stable state of mind directly affecting living has been an everyday affair due to the various challenges people face. The need to maintain a sound mental health is very paramount and essential in day-to-day life, and it helps determine how we handle stress, it determines how we relate to other people, it helps us to make healthy choices, it affects how we think, feel and act, according to the Leigh.[1] Mental health disorders are significantly prevalent in Nigeria; about 19 million Nigerians are said to be affected by mental disorders as per recent reports given by Our World in Data, 2022.[2] It has also been noted that 3 out of every 10 Nigerians are affected by at least one form of mental health illness and that there is a marked increase in depression.[3]

In order to curb some health issues and reduce the quantum of people with mental illnesses, mental health services must be made available, accessible, and affordable. However, in an underdeveloped country like Nigeria, the provision of mental health services is not given much concern and which has led to having few mental health facilities. Correspondingly, according to the Rural Health Information Hub 2022,[4] access to mental health services and providers, especially in rural areas is challenging. One of Nigeria's major and most significant challenges facing mental health is the inadequate number of practitioners and facilities. In Nigeria, the provision of mental health services has not been given much concern, which has led to the availability of few mental health facilities.

According to Human Right Watch on the life of people with mental health conditions in Nigeria, 2018 and 2019, they said it is hard for most people with mental health conditions in Nigeria to get the appropriate support near where they live, for instance, lack of enough staff with the proper knowledge to help people with mental health conditions and its prohibitive cost of getting to the right care. Furthermore, from the information acquired from several mental health professionals, it was deduced that mental health services are available only to the wealthier citizens who can afford it, and this has driven some people to consult traditional or faith-based healers.

Thus, low-income groups in the urban and rural areas who access care through public mental health clinics are at greater risk of not accessing the needed mental health services. Furthermore, due to the limited availability of mental health services in Nigeria, such as the absence of mental health services in rural communities which have made it difficult for low-income people to access and afford the services due to transportation problems and cost of the services. Furthermore, mental health services need to be available in all health-care systems to enable people to access them locally and affordably, preventing the need to travel long distances before one can access the services. According to research carried out in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, only one neuropsychiatric hospital was available for over 1 million people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and has fewer than 300 psychiatrists for an estimated population of over 200 million.[5] It is hard for most people with mental health conditions in Nigeria to get the right support near where they live.

There are several mental health services, and some include clinical assessments and treatments, consultation and liaison psychiatry services, counseling, acute inpatient services, and outpatient services as stated by the Better Health Channel, 2021.[6] These services are delivered majorly in mental health hospitals. There are about ten federal neuropsychiatric hospitals and over ten university teaching hospitals rendering these services.[7] In accordance with Anyebe et al. mental health services are provided mainly by these hospitals and are “scarce” in primary health-care centers in Nigeria.[8] The authors have also stated that availability increases access, the opportunity or ease with which consumers or community members can use appropriate services in proportion to their needs.

However, despite the looming mental crisis, some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have taken it on themselves to improve the mental health of Nigerians by creating awareness and challenging the misconceptions and stigma held by the public about mental health. These organizations include Love, Peace, and Mental Health Foundation, Neem Foundation, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, and She Writes Woman.[9] Conclusively, government and NGOs have made some efforts to provide mental health services; it is pertinent to state that some policies need to be made to ensure that more rural dwellers are reached.

In the light of these, more success will be recorded if the following identified issues are addressed

  1. Government should ensure that all relevant agencies are aware of the importance of mental health as well as the availability of its services in remote places
  2. Mental health professionals should be available in remote areas rather than in urban areas, thereby providing a holistic solution to the problem
  3. Primary health care centers should provide Mental health services (MHSs) as part of routine services to curb the increased prevalence of mental illness and promote mental health
  4. Government agencies and other stakeholders should raise awareness to ensure that the rural populations are more educated on mental health because from available evidence, more rural dwellers abuse hard drugs and engage in activities that can adversely affect their mental health
  5. Enhancing the availability, accessibility, and affordability of the mental health-care services for Nigerians is the need of the hour, and the government should take such initiations at most priority basis
  6. Need to setup more mental health research and educational institutions to address the scarcity of the mental health-care professionals such as psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and psychiatric nurses.
  7. Policy-level adaptations need to be given importance to ratify acts related to mental health, rights of persons with disability, etc.
  8. The proliferation of NGO's establishment in the mental health field to promote awareness in the community and provide services to persons with mental illness and their caregivers
  9. Allocation of funds in the nation budget to amplify the mental health-care services across the country for setting up the new mental health hospitals
  10. Adopting the tele medicine services in the mental health field to reach out to remote areas.

  References Top

Leigh H. What is Mental Health? In: Genes, Memes, Culture, and Mental Illness. New York, NY: Springer New York; 2010. p. 141-53.  Back to cited text no. 1
Search. Our World in Data. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/search?q=mental+health+disorder+. [Last accessed on 2022 Jul 02].  Back to cited text no. 2
Available from: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/01/3-out-of-10-nigerians-are-mentally-sick-reps/amp/. [Last accessed on 2022 Jul 02].  Back to cited text no. 3
Healthcare Access in Rural Communities Overview – Rural Health Information Hub. Available from: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/healthcare-access. [Last accessed on 2022 Jul 02].  Back to cited text no. 4
Wikipedia Contributors. Mental Healthcare in Nigeria. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/mental_healthcare_in_Nigeria. [Last accessed on 2022 Jul 02].  Back to cited text no. 5
Mental Health Services and Programs Explained. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/mental%20health-services-and-programs-explained. [Last accessed on 2022 Jul 02].  Back to cited text no. 6
Uwakwe R. Mental health service and access in Nigeria: A short overview. Int J Glob Soc Work 2019;2:103-5.  Back to cited text no. 7
Anyebe EE, Olisah VO, Garba SN, Amedu M. Current status of mental health services at the primary healthcare level in Northern Nigeria. Adm Policy Ment Health 2019;46:620-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
Thelwell K. 4 Organizations Improving Mental Health in Nigeria. The Borgen Project; 2019. Available from: https://borgenproject.org/mental-health-in-nigeria/. [Last accessed on 2022 Jul 02].  Back to cited text no. 9


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