A professor of psychiatry, Taiwo Sheikh, has said 90 per cent of Nigerians with mental disorders do not visit healthcare providers for attention and care.
Sheikh, who is also the immediate past President of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Lagos.
He said that such an attitude had detrimental effects on the individual and society at large.
He urged Nigerians to cultivate the habit of caring for their mental health through regular check-ups and treatment.
Sheikh said that stigmatisation, poor recognition and less attention given to mental health in society were factors responsible for such attitude.
He said: “90 per cent of people who have mental disorders in our country, whether major or minor, do not get to see any psychiatric healthcare provider at all for relief of their symptoms.
“So, they are not diagnosed or treated, which is a shame, because they have a detrimental effect, not just on the individuals, but also on our society.
“Most people who have mental illnesses carry them about; it is like they are working wounded. So, they go to work and live their lives with it.
“They might not be disturbing other people, but they are under-performing at their tasks or they are making wrong decisions as a result of the illness.
“So, untreated mental illness, whether major or minor, carries a cost both for the individual and society.”
Sheikh also said that one in every five persons would at one point in their lifetime experience one type of mental illness or the other.
He said that most of the mental illnesses experienced by people were not psychotic such as hallucinations, schizophrenia, but were a result of anxiety, stress and depression.
“Those constitute the overwhelming majority of mental illnesses.
“They are very common and often missed because people do not even recognise them as mental illnesses, and they do not present themselves to healthcare providers.
“They do not present, sometimes, out of ignorance or just because the facilities for intervention are not available or not within their easy reach,” he said.
He said that there were approximately 200 psychiatrists in Nigeria due to brain drain which had continued to be a challenge in the country.
Sheikh who decried the poor state of the few existing psychiatric hospitals in the country said that most states in the country did not have functional psychiatric hospitals.
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