Psychiatrists want collaboration on mental health awareness

Psychiatrists have called on professionals in mental health to collaborate with non-professional organisations to educate and create more awareness about mental issues in the society.

The psychiatrists made the appeal at a seminar organised by two NGOs, the Nous Foundation Nigeria and Sparkle Foundation Nigeria, on Saturday in Lagos.

A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Otefe Edebi, said that psychiatrists played a huge role in informing and educating the public about mental health.

According to him, it is not enough for psychiatrists to sit in the office and treat patients but need to communicate with people in the community.

“The role of the psychiatrist primarily is to provide care to the person with a mental health challenge and substance abuse challenge which now has expanded to emotional issues.

“The psychiatrist is a medical doctor who is skilled both to provide medication and also therapy.

“However, today, the role of a psychiatrist in a changing world where the idea and stigma around psychiatry is changing, especially among the young people.

“Also, the role of the psychiatrist in today’s generation is to collaborate with organisations; he can bring in the professional touch, but he cannot do it alone.

“They should collaborate with various people including social workers, non-professionals, because the best place to learn about this situation is with the people struggling with it,’’ he said.

Edebi said also that psychiatrists should be an advocate for the mentally ill by speaking for such person.

He said: “Speaking for, is to educate the society that this person is not different and can function properly if well understood.

“A psychiatrist should be a communicator; he should be able to speak, talk and educate about the issues and challenges of mental health.’’

Also, another Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Oluwayemi Ogun, said that continuous sensitisation and education remained key to increasing awareness about mental health.

“In the last two years there have been unfortunate incidents of suicide; people jumping into the Lagoon and so on.

“Also, there have been issues of drug abuse; these have forced Nigerians to talk more about mental health issues.

“Therefore, we cannot, but continue to educate people about mental health to increase awareness and reduce stigma associated with it,’’ Ogun, the Medical Director, Federal Neuro-Psychiatry Hospital, Yaba, said.

She said that many people did not understand mental health and were focusing on mental disorders rather than mental health.

According to her, people perceive mental disorders as someone with torn clothes and walking naked on the street.

“World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

“How many people in Nigeria achieve his or her full potentials and contribute to the community?

“It is not only people who are seen on the street with torn clothes that have mental health issues; even people who look good physically can have mental issues,’’ Ogun said.

In her remarks, the Convener, the Nous Foundation, Mrs Lade Olugbemi, said that due to the increasing cases of mental issues including suicide and drug abuse, there was need to talk about mental health.

Olugbemi said that the foundation was passionate about creating awareness and was willing to collaborate with professionals in mental health.

“We cannot stop talking about mental health, because it is a condition that can affect anybody.

“It is important that professionals in the field collaborate with organisations to educate people and this should be sustained.

“Also, the government needs to put in place enabling environment for people to thrive and achieve their potentials in life,’’ she urged.

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