Nigeria’s health challenges shifting to mental health – Expert


The Medical Director, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr Monday Igwe, says the country’s burden of health challenges is gradually shifting from infectious diseases to mental health.


Igwe said this in an interview with the press  in Enugu on the sidelines of the 2019 World Mental Health Day celebration.


The medical director attributed the development to increasing social problems, including unemployment, inadequate finances to cater for one’s needs and other complex societal needs.


He said that mental health needed to be given the seriousness it deserved by government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).


“This is because the trend and burden of illness are getting less with infectious diseases and moving towards mental health problems,” he said.


Igwe, however, expressed the regret that the institution had not received the required support to cater for the mental health of the people of the South-East zone.


“This hospital is supposed to service the five states in the South-East in terms of mental health, but we have the challenge of limited resources and dilapidated structures.


We are also lacking in personnel as a lot of our doctors and nurses are leaving for greener pastures abroad, leaving us with limited human resources to cope with increasing cases of mental illness.


Mental health is a neglected area, as we mostly talk about physical health. A person is said to be healthy when he or she is socially, physically and mentally fit. Being healthy is not just the absence of infirmity,” he said.


Igwe said that it was sad that mentally ill people were oftentimes stigmatised.


“People stigmatise our patients. Instead of bringing mentally-ill people to the hospital, you see them taking to prayer houses or to native doctors.


By the time they come to us, they would have wasted all the resources they would have used to treat them in a mental health facility,” he said.


The medical director said that given the necessary resources, the institution had the capacity to cater for mental health patients in terms of research, clinical services and training.


The theme of the 2019 World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention.