Today, there was yet another suicide case involving a 43-year-old father who
was said to have been unemployed for seven years. This is one of the many cases of suicide that are reported almost on a daily basis in Nigeria. Information from several news reports shows that youth have been the highest victims of suicide cases in the last eight months.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, about 20-30% of Nigerians suffer from mental illness. Taking the upper limit, this implies that about 57 million Nigerians of a population of c.190m have mental health issues.
Despite this high statistics, the Nigerian government gives little or no attention to mental health and there are gross misconceptions or in many cases, a total lack of awareness on mental health issues amongst the populace.
The President of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria, Dr Taiwo Sheikh had in an
interview, said that Nigeria has only about 250 psychiatrists providing mental health care. In addition to that, our deeply religious views also make us believe mental health issues can be solved with prayers.
That said, many have linked the recent spike in suicide cases to the worsening economic
situation pre and post the economic recession. The high rate of unemployment and the
squeeze in purchasing power of consumers following several rounds of Naira depreciation
amidst double-digit inflation rate have left many Nigerians extremely poor.
According to data from the UNDP for 2017, Nigeria had the highest percentage of people living in multidimensional poverty both in the rural and urban areas when compared with a few emerging market peers.
It has become pertinent that Nigeria develops and implements policies addressing mental health issues. Indeed, integrating mental health into primary health care should help in combating the frightening increase of mental health among the youth and working
population of Nigeria.
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