Nigeria’s mental health crisis

The upsurge in mental health cases across Nigeria has become a pressing concern in recent years. The term “madness”, commonly used in local parlance to describe mental health conditions, reflects a deep-seated stigma and misunderstanding surrounding these issues. This spike in reported cases is indicative of several complex factors intertwined within the socio-cultural, economic, and healthcare landscape of the nation.

One significant contributor is the lack of awareness and understanding of mental health. Misconceptions prevail, often leading to individuals not seeking professional help due to fear of discrimination or societal ostracisation. The persisting stigma attached to mental illness prevents open discussions and hampers access to vital support systems.

In addition, limited access to mental health services exacerbates the situation. Nigeria, like many other developing nations, faces a shortage of mental health professionals and facilities. This scarcity amplifies the challenges faced by individuals seeking help, leading to untreated or improperly managed conditions.

Furthermore, socio-economic stressors such as poverty, unemployment, and societal pressures weigh heavily on mental well-being. The adverse impact of these stressors on the mental health of Nigerians cannot be overlooked. The COVID-19 pandemic further intensified these issues, amplifying anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Addressing this growing crisis requires a multi-faceted approach. First and foremost, awareness campaigns must be intensified to dispel myths and encourage seeking help without fear of judgment. Investment in mental health infrastructure, including more psychiatric facilities and trained professionals, is imperative. Collaborative efforts involving government, healthcare providers, NGOs, and communities are essential to bridge the gap in mental health services.

Moreover, integrating mental health education into school curricula and workplace programs can foster a culture of understanding and empathy. Creating support networks and helplines for individuals in distress can provide immediate assistance and guidance.

It’s high time Nigeria recognised mental health as a crucial component of overall well-being. By destigmatising mental illness, improving accessibility to mental health services, and fostering a supportive environment, the nation can stride towards a healthier, more empathetic society that ensures no one is left behind in their struggle for mental wellness.

Rasheeda Yakubu Usman,

Mass Communication Department,

Borno State University, Maiduguri.