As mental health awareness continues to gain more ground all over the world, and people acknowledge its presence and become more intentional about preserving their sanity, Nigeria hasn’t caught on to a complete acceptance of its existence. Here are a few odd reasons why.
A Case of Weird Misunderstandings!
Oh, the wild world of stigma! In Nigeria, it has reached such dizzying heights that mental health issues are often mistaken for a weakness or some spiritual affliction. Would you believe that there is a Lunacy Act of 1958, which gives power to magistrates and medical practitioners to detain an individual suffering from mental illness, and since then, it hasn’t been fully amended! Naturally, people would fear seeking the help they need.
The Abundance of Unawareness:
In a land where education and awareness about mental health are in dire need of a makeover, confusion reigns supreme. Many Nigerians simply don’t understand what mental health truly entails. To the man on the street, mention mental health and all they hear is you’re talking about madness. We need to be delivered from our ignorance.
Superstitions Reign Supreme
Superstitions have a chokehold on a lot of minds in Nigeria, and as such have managed to sneak their way into mental health discussions, making people view it as some spooky supernatural phenomenon rather than a medical concern.
Hush now. How can you go around telling people you are having mental health issues? The norm in Nigeria is to bury your mental health concerns under heavy layers of secrecy, or if your problem must make it out, it is in whispers in guarded conversations. It’s time we break free from this injurious culture and embrace open discussions, creating a safe space for those who need support to step forward without fear of judgement.
Not Enough Tech
Tech might be the in thing now, but not everyone has access to it, despite it being one of the quickest ways to get information around. So what we have is a lack of information regarding mental health in the remote areas. And these are the areas where ignorance and superstition are very prevalent. It’s time for mental health to go viral (in a good way)!
Nigeria’s Got 99 Problems And Mental Health Ain’t One
The government isn’t really paying the required attention to mental health. No legislation, poor or no funding, and research. Would you believe there are only eight neuropsychiatric hospitals in the entire country responsible for professional training of psychiatric doctors as well as managing patients with psychiatric disorders!!
While NGOs, philanthropists, professional associations and international organizations have done a lot to raise awareness and educate the public, this has mostly been carried out in the urban regions. There is a need for the government to carry out enlightenment campaigns to remote and rural areas.
There is still much to be done to improve the state of mental health awareness in Nigeria and we hope in the near future, we will start to see some improvements.