The government of Lagos State is set to activate mental health desks in all the primary health centres (PHCs) across the state.
To ensure their seamless take off, the Head of Department of Psychiatry, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Prof Abiodun Adewuya, the desk officer in-charge of Mental Health, Ministry of Health Alausa, Ikeja, Dr Dolapo Fasawe and experts in the field, have held a training for officers drawn from the PHCs in the state. The event held at Ikeja and was well attended.
Adewuya said the government decided to do this because it noted the importance of mental health in the state.
“Frightening enough, though the state has three institutions with mental health facilities, the human capacity required to detect, treat and manage cases is not able to cope with the surging figures. And so engaging that healthcare givers from PHCs, which is the first place of call in healthcare delivery system. It is a systematic way for early detection of cases and possibly management, thereby halting larger scale of patients’ admission at tertiary institutions,” he said.
Nigeria has no fewer than 300 psychiatrists. Out of this number, about 32 are in Lagos hospitals.
Adewuya listed symptoms to watch out for, which people can report to PHCs. He said: “When you notice that people are losing interest in things that once interest them, it is time to check their mental wholeness. For experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviours can be an early warning sign of a problem. Eating or sleeping too much or too little, pulling away from people and usual activities, having low or no energy, feeling numb or like nothing matters, having unexplained aches and pains, feeling helpless or hopeless, smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual or feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared.
“Others are yelling or fighting with family and friends, experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships, having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head, hearing voices or believing things that are not true, thinking of harming yourself or others or inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.’’
According to Fasawe: “Mental health include our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected.’’
She added: ‘’Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including: Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry, Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, and family history of mental health problems.”
She added that doctors, nurses and other health care workers at the PHCs are being trained to identify and treat depression, epilepsy and psychosis (DEP) so that there would be increased access to evidenced-based intervention and improved health outcome in clients with DEP.
According to Fasawe, quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), the knowledge of what to do about the escalating burden of mental disorders has improved over the past decade. “There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating both the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of key interventions for priority mental disorders in countries at different levels of economic development.
‘’Examples of interventions that are cost-effective, feasible, and affordable include: treatment of epilepsy with anti-epileptic medicines; treatment of depression with psychological treatment and, for moderate to severe cases, (generically produced) anti-depressant medicines; treatment of psychosis with older antipsychotic medicines and psychosocial support; and taxation of alcoholic beverages and restriction of their availability and marketing,” she said, adding that the challenges facing people with mental health problems are principally stigma and funding.