The Founder of the Mental Health Foundation, Dr. Emmanuel Owoyemi, said on Thursday that 64 million Nigerians had one form of mental illness or the other.
Owoyemi, who disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, on the sideline of a forum to mark the 2013 World Mental Health Day, attributed the situation to the absence of a mental health policy in the country.
The forum had the theme: “Mental Health and Older Adults.”
Owoyemi said: “Sixty-four million Nigerians today are going through one form of mental illness or the other because everything that would cause mental illness is on the increase in Nigeria.
“Poverty is on the increase, hopelessness is on the increase, insecurity is on the increase.
“There is so much panic at heart, anxiety, high level depression.
“And also, there is no mental health policy in Nigeria right now.
“The National Assembly has been delaying in passing the Mental Health Bill.
“None of the psychiatric hospitals in Nigeria today has up to 1,000 beds and we have over 160 million people.
“We have about 150 psychiatrists.
“We have 34 neuro-surgeons in the whole country, meaning that one point something million Nigerians is to one psychiatrist.
“How many people can one psychiatrist attend to among the 1.2 million or 1.3 million?
“So, we are not doing enough.
“The human capital is not there.
“The facility is not there.
“And yet, everything that could cause mental illness is on the increase in Nigeria.”
The World Federation of Mental Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation set aside October 10 every year to raise awareness on mental health issues across the world.
Owoyemi urged the National Assembly to ensure the speedy passage of the Mental Health Bill to reduce high rate of mental cases.
He said: “We need a mental health bill, a national policy for mental health.
“That is where to start from.
“There must be a law.
“There must be a legal framework to work with.
“There must be a policy.
“That bill is what will help us to be able to do every other thing.
“If we say, let’s start putting facilities, structures, systems in place, it is the bill that will give us the legal framework to do all that.
“So, if the bill is not passed, nothing else can be done.
“Even to budget for mental health adequately, we need a bill that guides everything we do.”