Dr Muhammad-Bashir Yahaya, a medical practitioner, has advocated the integration of mental
health education into the basic health education curriculum to correct the perceptions people have against psychiatric patients in the country.
Yahaya, also a mental health advocate, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday that a good number of psychiatric patients suffered unspeakable degrees of inhuman treatment and human rights abuses.
According to him, some of them are termed “mad”, while some are tied down in religious homes and traditional healers’ shrine and other places where they experience cruel treatment.
He explained that “there are different approaches to addressing perceptions of mental health in our communities and these will help in educating children and adults.
“This will help in educating children about the basics of mental health from a very early age, help in reducing the chances of stigmatisation.
“It will help to reduce stigmatisation and make children and young adults feel more comfortable discussing their mental health challenges and ultimately improve mental health.”
Yahaya also said that mental health awareness should be strengthened among the populace by continuously educating and re-educating people through available media, conventional or social, via cultural and religious bodies.
“If these are done, more people will be better informed about appropriate mental health information, means of approach and channels of seeking information and help.
“Since the Nigerian populace is significantly cultural and religious in orientation, the involvement of all platforms with such affiliations is of enormous benefit to changing the mental health narrative in Nigeria,’’ he said.
The medical practitioner noted that COVID-19 had disrupted access to crucial mental health services in the country, saying that “COVID-19 had practically stopped services to many aspects of life, including mental health.
“It is further changing the dynamics of human interactions, which are a significant part of mental healthcare.
“Apart from hospitals having low reception index of non-emergency conditions, travel restrictions and other COVID-19 induced restrictions are bringing about increased levels of anxiety and social isolation, both of which are detrimental to mental health.
“The mental health impact of COVID-19 on survivors is something yet to be fully understood, but current indications are not pointing toward positive effects.’’