By Martha Aga
Jos,Oct. 10, 2020 The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Plateau Chapter, has called for the establishment of Psychiatric Hospitals in the hinterland, as the world celebrates Mental Health Day.
The Chairman of the chapter, Dr Emmanuel Innocent, made the call in an interview with journalists on Saturday in Jos.
Innocent said establishment of the psychiatric hospitals in rural areas would help in addressing the numerous mental challenges in the society by making treatment accessible to patients irrespective of distance.
“Psychiatric hospitals should be established in hinterlands which should be operated by qualified professionals to cater properly for patients,”he said.
He said the celebration of the mental health day with the theme:’ Mental Health for All- Greater Investment Greater Success’ was a clarion call to government to invest more in security, health and the economic sector.
“Serene environment should be provided for people to live in the country.People should have access to good health care; should have assurance of three meals in a day; assurance of security where there are no threats of kidnap or being killed,”he said.
The chairman said the government should also improve on the economy, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic had caused so many problems, saying many people had suffered losses as a result of the disease.
“People have suffered losses of their livelihood; they are facing economic hardships; some have lost their loved ones in Nigeria and beyond. That is traumatic to their health.
“Students have stayed at home for a long time; this, coupled with the strike by the Academic Staff Union for Universities (ASUU) can be a cause of serious mental health, leading to depression and suicide,”he said.
He said there was an urgent need for recovery from the pandemic, especially the strain on the Health System.
The chairman said the situation could lead to mental challenges that could lead to problems in the society such as violence, depression and suicide.
He decried the patronage of herbal practitioners and spiritual homes as a remedy to treating mental illnesses, saying patients in addition to medical attention, required empathy and compassion to get well.
He said the mental health day was to create awareness on mental challenges, educate the public and advocate against social stigma on people that required mental health care.
Innocent said that the association was against stigma on mental health challenges based on sex, religion and social status, among other factors, saying knowledge on mental health could help in ensuring that people were mentally stable.
He called for training and retraining of health workers who handled mental health, saying improving on their capacity would help in handling patients.
He also said that financial burden of accessing health care should be addressed to encourage patients to get treatment in hospitals.
The chairman said universal health coverage through health insurance would reduce the financial burden of accessing health care to Nigerians, especially those whom were not in the formal sector.
“I commend the Plateau Government for establishing the Plateau State Contributory Health Care Management Agency
(PLASCHEMA), to ensure access to health care through health insurance, especially to those in the non-formal sector.
“If effective, it will encourage people to seek medical help for their mental issues without worrying on financial burden,”he said.
In a separate interview with NAN , a consultant Forensic Psychiatrist with the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr Aishatu Armiya’u, urged people to be sensitive to people they interacted with in order to detect depression early.
Armiya’u said lack of interest in normal activities people engaged in, mood swings and utterances of some sensitive statements,should be treated with seriousness.
She said a group of physicians, psychologists, nurses and administrators had set up a team in JUTH that was called the Suicide Response and Prevention Unit, to address the increasing rate of suicide in the society.
“We hold meetings monthly and have telephone lines which have been disseminated for people to call when they are in distress, then we follow up and get them to the hospital .
“We give free medication to those who are depressed, for those that need counsel, we do that and we get calls from all over the Federation,”she said.
NAN reports that the World Mental Health Day is observed annually on Oct. 10, with the aim of raising awareness on mental health issues.
The 2020 celebration is being marked amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented mental health consequences.