As mental health cases continue to increase in the country, an expert and communication specialist, Adah Francis Abah, has said Nigeria is not set to respond to the growing mental health crises caused by Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
According to the expert, COVID-19 pandemic has created an increased risk for those with existent mental illness due to disruptions in treatment services, medications and support services.
The expert who spoke at a zoom roundtable discussion on the theme ” The Nigeria psychosocial system in the era of emergency Covid-19 challenges and implications argued that these disruptions could increase existing mental health symptoms or trigger relapse among people in this population.
The event which was organized by Charis Healthcare and Community Support Initiative (Jos) and Funded by Rosa Luxemberg Stiftung had 57 participants from Nigeria and outside Nigeria with people from Ghana, South Africa, Malasia and Dubai .
In his presentation, Abah pointed out that heavily impacted by the pandemic is community-based psychosocial support activities such as support groups which regularly brings people together have come to a halt with group members unable to meet for months.
According to him, such activities have physical distancing restrictions which must be adhered to or face sanctions by government authorities stressing that the demand for in-person or face-to-face mental health services have reduced significantly due to the fear of infection.
He added that these challenges have necessitated the need for mental services to begin moving towards using digital and telecommunication solutions such as digital phones and web based applications.
Abah further urged Government to ensure the integration of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support into all Covid-19 response and recovery plans saying Nigerian government needs to invest more into mental health and prioritize it as an essential right
He argued that now more than ever, mental health and psychosocial support needs to become a priority and the government needs to put in place enabling structures for everyone, during this pandemic, and in the future to access mental health and psychosocial support services.
Abah also called for increase funding for Mental Health as part of Covid-19 response in Nigeria, “Funding has been focused primarily on physical health. This needs to change so as to respond swiftly to mental health needs which can be devastating if left unchecked.”