Mental health: Expert tasks health institutions on collaboration

A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Shehu Sale, has called for active collaboration between institutional organs in the formal sector and non-formal traditional healers in tackling mental health disorders.

Sale, also a Medical Director, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital (FNPH), Kware in Sokoto State, told the press in Sokoto that the prevalence of mental health cases was due to absence of synergy between the institutions.

He stressed that collaboration would fast-track understanding of capabilities and limitations among them.

Collaboration between these institutions becomes necessary because most psychiatric cases are often taken to non-formal places as the first point of call before being later reported to qualified facilities in Nigerian communities, he said.

According to Sale, everyone is vulnerable to mental illness as research indicates that one out of every four persons will have one form of mental disorder in their lifetime.

The consultant psychiatrist said the Federal Government’s plan of integrating mental health into the Primary Health Care (PHC) system would help in addressing the problem.

He explained that based on the needs of the population, PHC formed an integral part of Nigeria’s health system, and should be the main focus in boosting the overall social and economic development of communities.

Sale said the mental health burden was likely to be under-estimated because of inadequate appreciation of the relationship between mental illness and other health conditions.

Sale, an Associate Professor and Master Trainer with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) described government’s integration efforts and other support psychiatric facilities as landmark achievements of the present administration.

He said mental illness increased the risk of both communicable and non-communicable diseases and vice versa as it also increased the likelihood of living in poverty.

Perhaps because of their influence on functionality and ability to get or sustain employment conversely, poverty, substance abuse and depression increase the likelihood of developing mental disorders,Sale said.

The psychiatrist said stigma and discrimination against people living with mental disorders affected their education, employment and access to care and hampered their capacity to contribute to society.

Mentally ill patients, especially if chronic, have poor health-related quality of life and poor global adjustment of functioning.

Unfortunately, the majority of developmental and poverty alleviation programmes do not reach persons with mental or psychosocial disabilities, the expert said.

He suggested allocation of significant funding resources to mental health as obtained in the control of malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and the promotion of maternal and child health.

Source: Voice of Nigeria