Expert seeks increased funding, integration of mental health to primary health care


A mental health expert, Adedotun Esan has called for increased funding as well as the integration of mental health services into the Primary Health Care services in Nigeria.

Esan made the call at the first edition of the mental health symposium which was organised by the Ditty Foundation in Abuja with the theme: “Achieving social inclusion through community kindness”

Esan while interacting with journalists said there is a need to increase funding for mental health services and also integration into primary health care for people who cannot afford general therapy

She explained that rendering mental health services required basic psychosocial first aid at the community level as she called on the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to integrate mental health services into the primary.

Speaking further, Esan, however, expressed gratitude to the government as she said for the first time Nigeria have a mental health act that was unscented by the past president.

According to her: “This is becoming a priority for the government and we hope that this continues because the traction that we are getting now is very good.”

“From day one, the legislation and another thing that’s something that is very big for us. So in Nigeria, attempted suicide is a crime. If you try to kill yourself in Nigeria, you’re going to be jailed for one year.

“One of the things we are driving is to decriminalise suicide attempted and suicide in Nigeria. Anyone that tries to kill themselves needs help.”

“So let us give them help and not put them behind bars because that will cause more problems for them. And as a network, we have that campaign going on now.

“We don’t want people to be criminalised for attempted suicide but we need them to get help. So government has been supportive and they are doing better a lot and we will hope that they do more” She said.

Also, a Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Motunrayo Oyelohunnu who spoke about barriers against mental health explained that there are individual level, the family level, the community and the government level barriers.

Oyelohunnu said some of the barriers at the individual level are certain biases that people have not been empathetic enough saying that there are attitudes that people also put forward concerning people that are different from them in different ways.

“Different it may be in the colour of their skin. Where they come from, who they are, their socioeconomic status, maybe their disabilities and so forth. What are some of the barriers at that particular level and then family level, what kinds of conversations that we have in our homes.

“What do we expose our children to? Some of these things can also engender certain barriers and then at society or community level some practices, taboos, traditions, you know, lack of empathy, lack of acceptability and lack of compassion.”

These are some of the things that can bring about barriers and at the government level, either what policies are there, policies in place that foster inclusion, or are they actually barriers?

“So, when we look at maybe the field of disability, you have barriers such as infrastructure barriers, sets infrastructure is not in place to support people with physical disabilities, setting an infrastructure and not favourable for people with other kinds of disabilities? And setting ways that we communicate also may not help people to feel included in the society.”

“These are some of the basic ones that I can talk about right now. So the way out, again, is to address these issues at the levels individual levels, we need to educate ourselves.

“The fact that somebody does not look like you talk like you have some of the resources you have does not make them less of a human. We have know how to open our hearts and be more empathetic.

“Put yourself in the shoes of those people. Try and imagine what it goes through on a daily basis where you hear certain information, try and confirm it. Read up more.”

“Traveling and meeting with people also is a way of breaking down barriers if we must keep it as simple as possible. Where you meet people from different spheres of life, it makes you more inclusive.” She added.



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