NGO urges government to prioritise mental health care to address coronavirus psychological effects

Kaduna State Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed that a four-month-old child was among the 20 new coronavirus cases recorded in the state on Friday.

The Leadership Entrepreneurship and Advocacy (LEAD) Network, an NGO, has urged government at all levels to prioritise mental health care because of the adverse COVID-19 psychological effect on the citizenry.

The Executive Director of LEAD Network, Mr Chukwuma Okenwa, made the call on Monday in Enugu while speaking with newsmen.

Okenwa spoke on the sidelines of President of Sierra Leone, Julio Bio’s recent recognition and re-engagement of Nigeria’s Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr George Eze, for his outstanding performance in transforming the psychiatric sector of his country.

Okenwa noted that some Nigerians were currently going through socioeconomic failed dreams, which may lead to depression, mental stress and suicide thoughts.

He said: “This is the time government at all levels should take the issue of mental health seriously.

“This is very important as the current fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with its attendant economic crisis, impacts the psychological and mental health of people in no less measure.

“Aside from investing into the mental health sector, one of the ways a government can underscore the importance of mental health is by celebrating outstanding contributions by players in the psychiatric/mental health sector.

“That’s exactly what the President of Sierra Leone, Julio Bio did by recently, recognizing one of Nigeria’s Consultant Psychiatrists, Dr George Eze, for his outstanding performance in transforming the Psychiatric Sector of his country’’.

While congratulating Eze, a former Enugu state Commissioner for Health, who held sway during the Ebola era in the country, Okenwa urged state governors to have a rethink about state-owned psychiatric hospitals that were now in deplorable condition.

He appealed to state governors to initiate capacity building endeavours for mental health professionals.

“The rising instances of mentally challenged people who are often allowed to walk the street naked to the embarrassment of the sensibilities of children is alarming.

“The current Enugu State Commissioner of Health, Prof. Emmanuel Obi, needs to draw inspiration from the legendary work in Sierra Leone of the Nigerian Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Eze, to heighten efforts to improve mental health care at the level of the state psychiatric hospital.

“Enugu State Government needs to address the challenge of the alleged importation of mentally challenged people from other neighbouring states into Enugu state,’’ he said.

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