The Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative (MHEI), an NGO, has called on the government and people of Nigeria to reaffirm that health, including mental well being, is the inalienable right of every Nigerian.
Dr Ameh Abba, Founder of MHEI, made the call in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency, on Friday in Abuja.
Abba said that mental and neurological care should be made available to all citizens within the national health system at the level of Primary Health Care (PHC), across the country.
He recalled that in 1991, the Federal Government adopted a health policy which placed provision of mental health services at the PHCs level.
He said that the policy reaffirmed the commitment to provision of quality services that were accessible to most people in the country.
Abbah said that neuro-psychiatric and substance abuse disorders had a major impact on quality of life as well as social and economic viability of families and communities the country.
He noted that they were common with around one in five persons, adding that many were chronic, requiring long-term commitment to treatment, which could result to disability.
Abba added that only around 10 per cent of those diagnosed with mental disorders received any treatment in the country lately.
“At present, government services are only provided in tertiary institutions like Federal Neuro-psychiatric Hospitals and University Teaching Hospital psychiatric departments.
” Some States have psychiatric hospitals, and some Federal Medical Centres have a psychiatric department.
“The focus of all these services is in large cities, which makes access to care difficult for the majority of the population.
“There are less than 150 psychiatrists in the country, around one per one million persons, and very few neurologists and many newly trained specialists are leaving the country to work abroad.
“There are around five psychiatric nurses per 100,000 population, and only very few other mental and neurological health professionals like clinical psychologists, social workers, neuro-physiotherapists and occupational therapists,” he explained.
According to him, the systems that support delivery of services are currently weak, with poor availability of psychotropic drugs and lack of incorporation of mental and neurological health measures in health information systems.
Abbah noted that good quality community-based services with hospital support had been shown to be the most effective form of comprehensive mental health care.
He said that the Federal Ministry of Health is committed to the provision of evidence-based care through the expansion of accessible, de-centralised services to address the mental health access gap that currently exists in the country.
He disclosed that the policy was developed through a collaborative process which included a wide range of stakeholders in mental health in the country.
Abbah explained that they were developed by the National Mental Health Action Committee under the health ministry, using examples from other countries with similarities in social and economic contexts, as well as evidence-based best practice guidelines.
“Much of the content was based on experience in practice of members of the committee in various service settings.
“It then went through a consultation process with significant input from many stakeholders,” he said.