By Adekunle Yusuf
One of many long-lasting disruptions caused by the novel Coronavirus is serious reduction in funding for mental health, which has left the public to contend with dire consequences. This was the submission of Dr. Oluyemi Ogun, Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, during an event to commemorate this year’s World Mental Health Day.
In order to reverse the negative effects of deep cuts in mental health funding, Dr. Ogun also called for an increase in mental health investment in Nigeria, stressing that doing so will further open up access to those in need of mental health services. Globally, the World Mental Health Day is observed every October 10 to provide mental health education, awareness and advocacy to the general public against social stigma associated with mental illness in many societies and cultures.
This year’s theme, “Mental health for all: greater investment, greater access,” is officially set by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). According to the CMD, the economic consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused chronic underfunding in the mental healthcare sector, which has greatly reduced treatment opportunities for the people. “The country has been further diminished by the Covid-19 pandemic as mental health care providers, caregivers, and patients were locked down or became inaccessible due to the pandemic. How much access do our people have to mental health care, especially in conflict situations worsened by Boko Haram, banditry, and internal displacements, etc?
“There are 8 federally-owned stand-alone mental healthcare institutions across the country with all being sited at urban centers. Mental Health care as the 9th component of primary health care has not been fully integrated, thus making the rural communities lack access. So far, our politicians, while building giant hospitals and employing professionals should have a rethink; think mental health,” she said.
While urging the government and the general public to increase investment in mental health at all levels, Dr. Ogun said there are huge economic benefits every nation stands to reap in having a mentally health population. “There is a need for a massive scale-up in investment in mental health in our country. Whether you are somebody who has had a mental health issue or you are a mental health professional or you know somebody with mental health issues, let us all invest in mental health because without mental health, then there is no health. Let our religious leaders arise and invest in mental health, talk about mental health issues like rape, alcohol and substance abuse, depression, and suicide. By so doing, you are investing in the mental health of your congregation.”