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Report reveals drug abuse is major cause of mental disorder in Nigeria

It exposes misconceptions about mental illness

A NEW survey has identified that drug abuse and sickness of the mind are the major causes of mental illness in Nigeria. It also shows there is a poor perception of mental health in the country. 

The report titled Mental Health in Nigeria Survey was conducted by Africa Polling Institute and EpiAfric, a health consultancy services, and released on Tuesday.

The people interviewed for the survey were 5, 315 aged above 18 between September 2 and 28, 2019. The respondents spread across all senatorial districts and states including the Federal Capital Territory through Face-to-Face Household Interviews, using a stratified quota sampling technique.

Drug abuse was identified as the major cause of mental illness, followed closely with a sickness of the mind.

It found out there were lots of wrong perception Nigerians have about mental health disease. This included 70 per cent of citizens believing mental health disease is “when someone starts running around naked”.

While 63 per cent were of the opinion that it is “When someone starts talking to himself or herself”, 54 per cent of the respondents indicated that mental illness when someone harming oneself or others.

The report also stated that some believed that mental health disease is transferable.

More Nigerians in rural areas viewed mental health disease as possession by evil spirits, it stated.

“Across the six geo-political zones, Nigerians seem to share this sentiment.”

In unravelling attitude of Nigerians should they become aware of someone with the illness, the report showed that some Nigerians would seek spiritual help for people suffering from the mental disease. It recorded that 18 per cent of the respondents indicated to take an individual with a mental health disorder to a prayer house for deliverance, eight per cent showed interest in the service of a traditional medicine healer.

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Meanwhile, 70 per cent of the respondents promise to take a person aware to have a mental illness to a hospital. Southeast had the highest rate of people wanting to take patients to prayer house or lock them up when compared with other geo-political zones.

The report also stated that many Nigerians disassociate from someone with mental health disorder due to personal safety, the inability of victims to make sound judgement and perception of the public about such a relationship.

Mental health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, while mental health disorder encompasses a wide range of mental health conditions that affect a person’s mood, thinking and behaviour.

The report stated that there is a high misconception about mental illness in Nigeria.

“The belief held by the majority of Nigerians is that one must display disruptive behaviour that attracts public attention to be regarded as being mentally ill,” it expressed the prominent misconception.

It, therefore, called for an urgent need to educate Nigerians both at institutional and community levels. This would aim towards improving peoples’ perception on matters concerning mental health issues, the report added.

“There is a need for the integration of mental health services into Primary Health Care, so as to reduce the shortcomings involved in providing mental health services in some parts of the country,” it concluded.

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