When it comes to health care system, many nations in Africa have no structured and functional means of addressing pertinent issues for people who are considered ‘fit not to now talk of people who are considered’insane’ or being troubled by the ‘gods’ or through personal misdeeds.
As an individual, I used to think mental health cases are hopeless and must have been caused by misdeed of the affected person. Unfortunately many grew up here with such an erroneous belive that all mental health issues are not redeemable and all we could do Is to allow individuals to go through whatever experience they are experiencing. Like others, ignorance had led many into selfish orientation of not acknowledging the need for emphaty with mental health patients because we do believe the causes may be as a result of individual misdeeds or effect of ‘god, traditional cultscults etc ‘.
Recently I had an opportunity to sit down with a survivor of mental health and I could not but have a change of mind. First, mental problem cause may be unclear, but research now shows it can be as a result of biological, environmental and psychological factors. Mental health can develop from various means. It can be hereditary (genetic), brain defect damage, prenatal damage, substance abuse among others.
Another common associated causes can be through stress, abuse or traumatic experience.With biological factor, another research results also indicate it can come from abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits or routes that connect particular Brian regions. It is being said that if one is susceptible or inherently has tendency, mental illness is avoidable if there are no issues that can make them because depressed, abused or having to go through traumatic experiences. This last point shows that many mental health cases could have been the effect of psychological and environmental inducement.
But a common factor is when someone is deeply stressed up, they may likely begin soliloquising, talking alone without knowing among many other indications. In most cases in Africa at this stage, the shame associated with this condition from the society point of view make friends, families and love ones to tactically disassociate with victims.
Now coming to the effect and cost, mental health is a big issues in Africa. While we try to blame victims whose cases are caused by depression with regards to the assumptions humans have the power to make a choice irrespective of what had happened. This particular individual told me it all depends on information at the disposal of the person, the kind of help he/she can get as fast as possible from families, friends and the society at large. I was told many depressed people often become withdrawn, isolated and suffered from low self esteem which often make them chose isolation over association . Unfortunately if help is offered in the early days, months, the possibility of patients complete recovery is high.
With regards to health care systems here also,our system is not well prepared to handle this case as fast as possible especially when help is required. On the path of the family, going to a psychiatric hospital is also seen as as taboo. We forget that not all patients who attend psychiatric are ‘mad’ as it were.
For some, it is just depression or ‘misbehaviour’ as a result of traumatic experience which require attention to get the individual back to their senses.The individual survivor I had conversation with told me a closed relative developed mental health because his father was never there while he was growing up so the impact led to depression, insomnia and associated issues he could not handle when he became an adult. This eventually led to his death.
It is obvious, family, background, society can contribute to the growth of mental health cases. For some, the ability to handle shock, traumatic experience is finite, even though human has capacity to deal with any circumstances if one has right attitude and information.
In some cases, it is also believed that people with inherent tendency to develop mental health who is also an introvert can easily suffer from depression which can trigger the illness. So parents, families and friends as well as the society plus government must be up and doing in Nigeria and Africa if we must combat this endemic disease. The economic impact of mental illness treatment can be far greater when compare to prevention.
Nigeria , Africa will continue to lose the battle against mental health as long as our attitude to the cause remain stereotype – a believe in ‘god or witches’ as causes. Also as long as family, friends and society will not act to help a victim as early as possible. Early detection, help, support, required modern facility and human resource will go a long way to reduce the effect. In Nigeria, we can count the number of psychiatric hospitals on a finger tips. This is in a population of over 200 Million. The number of trained and qualified staff who can handle this issue is very small compare to what is required.
There is an urgent need for campaign and change in orientation about value of psychiatric hospital. The demands and pressure of the society is making many to lose their grip. So if there is need to see a psychiatric or psychologist for help, we must not be afraid to visit any of these professionals even if they are only available in psychiatric hospital. We must also educate the people and society at large. Mental health patients need understanding, empathy, support. They must not be seen as a ‘curse’ that must not be touched. Early and initial support, psychologically or emotionally, with lots of encourage for them to live a normal life wil help many get out of it and become incorporated into normal life.