Stop stigmatising people living with mental health – Experts

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By Chiazo Ogbolu

Lagos – Some mental health experts on Wednesday urged the public to stop stigmatising people living with mental health as it often affected treatment and caused more harm to such people.

The experts made the appeal in Lagos at the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) Media Round Table on “Depression and Suicide Prevention’’.

The Wikipedia, an online dictionary, describes mental health as a level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness – the state of someone who is “functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment’’.

Prof. Oye Gureje, Consultant Psychiatrist, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said that depression, which is a form of mental health, is a highly-treatable condition and the treatment relatively cheap.

According to him, the problem with treating depression is that people who are unfortunately affected by the condition do not get the treatment on time because they do not know they are depressed.

“Many aspects of one’s personal life and the environment can contribute to depression. Likewise, child neglect and abuse at early stage, gender, age and others.

“It is also unfortunate to state that most symptoms one will present relates to malaria and before one will understand exactly what is happening, the depression would have eaten deep,” he said.

Gureje said that to eliminate stigma and discrimination, there is need to remove the component of stigma which had to do with lack of knowledge, ignorance, prejudice and others.

He said that the impact of stigma on people was that it would discourage people from seeking care, worsen the impact of illness on their lives, reduce quality of life and lead to negative attitude.

Gureje urged the media to play its part by enlightening the public, advocate the rights of people with mental health and avoid the use of derogatory terms for mental illness.

According to him, depression increases the risk of death, leads to serious illness such as coronary heart diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes and can also lead to suicide.

Also, Prof. Olayinka Omigbodun, Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the UCH, Ibadan, called for the review of the Mental Health law which would instil proper treatment of mental health in the country.

According to her, the existing law made by the British is ancient and makes use of derogatory terms.

“We cannot talk about proper treatment of mental health issues if we do not have a law to back it up and we also need to understand that mental health issues affect everyone.

“There is also the need to understand that what will promote people’s mental health has to do with having good quality life with social amenities intact,’’ she said.

She discussed on Depression and Suicide Prevention among children and adolescent and focused on Nigeria.

Omigbodun said the burden of depression on adolescents affects their interpersonal relationships, linked to other problems including smoking, use of drugs, academic failure, physically inactive and secondary behavioural problems like truancy and stealing.

Earlier, Prof. Olatunde Farombi, Public Affairs Secretary, NAS, said that creating awareness and finding means of propagating these findings to government, ministries, agencies and Nigerian public was the essence of the forum.

According to him, there is the need for the public to take care of themselves, especially their mental health.

“People think that depression only happens to adults but recently it has been observed that even children are prone to depression.

“Getting the media involved in the forum is for them to propagate the information to the public and make people understand the issues associated with depression and proffer solutions to tackling it,’’ he said.

Mr Olalekan Sanni, Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Vitafoam, said that science was about giving comfort to life, of which Vitafoam propagates in their project.

According to him, the partnership with NAS on the issue of depression is quite relevant to what is happening in the country with the present economic situation.

He urged the media to project the situation to the public as it would go a long way to ensure that the gathering was a success. (NAN)

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