Physicians seek treatment for the mentally ill in West Africa

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Abuja  – The West African College of Physicians (WACP) has called on governments to devote substantial resources to solving the rising cases of mental and other illnesses in the sub region.
The Vice President of WACP, Dr Ayodele Omotosho, made the plea at a news conference to mark the end of the 38th/39th Annual General and Scientific Meeting (AGSM) of the college in Abuja.
According to him, there is a 10 per cent prevalence rate of mental ill health in the population while the sufferers are neglected and stigmatised.
“One of the presenters showed us that the prevalence of mental illness in our population is about 10 per cent.
“A lot of people have mental illness. It is not everybody that has mental ill health that you see on the road as vagrants or as mad people.
“But the fact is that there are various forms of mental ill health.
“That is an area that is being neglected, stigmatization is very rife; the moment somebody laughs unnecessarily, he is (regarded as) a mad man.’’
Omotosho observed that some persons would not want to be seen near the psychiatric hospitals for fear of being labelled mentally ill, noting that such attitude should be stopped.
According to him, there are some neglected children and others being used for so many vices.
“There are homeless children, abandoned children roaming the streets becoming ready tools in the hands of people who do not wish the society well.
“Such children may grow up to become psychopaths or adults with severe mental ill health’’, he said
He said healthy population of children will grow into healthy adults and care should be granted to the children’s population for the benefit of the society.
Also, the in-coming President of WACP, Dr Ifeoma Egbuonu, said a lot of children were predisposed to mental ill health which does not augur well for the society.
Egbuonu, a Paediatrician, said children often showed their emotions, even in the womb, and those with signs of depression should be taken care of early in life.

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“People wonder whether children can have mental illness.
“What we recorgnise as mental illness are people going naked and unkempt in the street.
“As a paediatrician, I know that children, even from the womb, are emotional.
“The mothers who carry them will tell you that even when they are unhappy, they are depressed; when they are happy they are happy; there is a bond.

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“And when they are born, they have capacities that are yet unexplored.
“And mental illness is caused by stress, lack of love, lack of care and unhealthy and unwarranted environment.’’
She said mental illness comes in various degrees.
“As parents, sometimes you will find that some children have some behavioural abnormalities, children who don’t develop as others, and children who want a lot of attention or cry a lot.
“All these are various degrees of mental instability’’, she said.
The expert, however, cautioned that such children should not be described as maniacs, noting that in some parts of the country, such behaviours led the children to be ill-treated.
She said such children needed psychiatrists and psychologists to attend to them.
According to her, there are some defined conditions that affect children because if the brain shows any abnormality, it will show on the behavioural pattern of the child. (NAN)

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