Stakeholders want an end to stigmatisation of people with mental health challenges

Stakeholders in mental healthcare in Nigeria, have called for an end to stimatisation of people with mental health challenges.

The stakeholders said this at the second annual mental symposium organised by the Sunshine Series in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung-Open Minds Young Voices (FES-OMYV) in Abuja.

Ms Aisha Bubah, the founder, Sunshine Series, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) said there was need to end stagmatisation of people with mental health challenges in Nigeria.

Bubah said that the symposium themed Mental Health as a Universal Human Right: A Multi-stakeholder Perspective was aimed at creating awareness on mental health as a universal human right.

She added that it was also aimed at promoting dialogue, education, and action toward improving access to mental health services and support systems.

“For a very long time, the mental health has been heavily stigmatised; in fact, sometimes people use that as an insult but that’s not the case with physical health.

“This is coming from a lot of stigma, most times when we hear mental health, we think about the person that we see roaming on the streets but that’s not it.

” That is why we are having conversations like this so people can relate, bringing together different stakeholders, schools, hospitals, NGOs, media and so on .

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that everybody has the potential to develop a mental health condition, either depression or anxiety and if you look at what’s currently happening in Nigeria, these are all factors that can affect one’s mental health,” she said.

Bubah said that it was not the intention of people to die by committing suicide due to depression, but the fact that they were not helped, they ended up taking their own lives.

She said that having access to mental health should not be so expensive and difficult to get and stressed for the need to make it easy for people to access to mental health treatment even at primary healthcare level.

She said that the Sunshine had provided an intervention for free mental health and suicide prevention helpline with the national emergency number 112 with support from the Ministry of Special Duties and the Nigerian Communication Commission.

Mr Lennart Oestergaard, the Resident Representative, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nigeria, advised the Federal Government to investment in mental health infrastructure, including mental health clinics, trained professionals and campaigns to combat stigma.

“It is our responsibility to create a society where seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of strength, not weakness.

“This also means to fight for universal healthcare,ensuring that mental health services are integrated into the broader healthcare system.

“We must advocate for policies that expand access to affordable mental healthcare and provide insurance coverage for all Nigerians,” he said.

Ms Ramatu Ochekliye, the founder, Shades of Us Story Telling Initiative for African People, said mental health challenges were on the rise due to the economic situation in the country.

“Imagine someone who is earning the basic minimum wage, how can they cope with things happening right now?

“So it is important that we talk about all the things that can cause mental health issues and see how we can proffer solutions and say things may be bad, but there is some hope, we can work together through these trying times that we are going through.

“We make films make people understand that it is okay to have times when life can be overwhelming and then we wanted people to be able to move through it instead of letting it overwhelm them,” she said.

Ochekliye encouraged citizens to be sensitive when the people around them were going through trying times and be supportive to prevent them from taking the steps toward suicide.

She also encouraged those going through challenges to reach out for help as well as leverage on the toll-free number 112 to be helped.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria

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