Include mentally ill patients in NHIS, expert urges FG

Patients suffering from mental illness are treated at the Angoda Mental Hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 12, 2005. Three months after the December 26, 2004 tsunami the 1200 bed hospital, Sri Lanka's only secure mental health facility, is lacking the space for additional patients suffering from disorders like post traumatic stress due to the tsunami. The hospital is home mostly to patients suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. All of whom are only treated with anti-psychotic drugs and electric shock therapy due to a severe shortage of mental health professionals. Countrywide there are only 32 trained psychiatrist for a population of 19 million. Photo by Keith Bedford

A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Olugbenga Owoeye, on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to make adequate provisions for the treatment of the mentally ill in the National Insurance Health Scheme (NHIS).

Owoeye, who is the Head, Training and Research, Federal Neuro-Psychiatry Hospital, Yaba, made the appeal in an interview in Lagos, he said that this would go a long way in addressing and managing mental health disorder in the country.

“Since we do not have social security system in Nigeria, NHIS is trying to sort of fill in the gap, but unfortunately, mental illness is not well captured in the NHIS.

“There is need for us to be able to look into that area very well so that adequate provisions will be made for the treatment of the mentally ill in the NHIS.

“Let those who are working pay for the treatment of those who cannot afford it; by so doing, we will all be well in Nigeria,” he said.

The psychiatrist said that stigmatisation was still a major challenge in the management of mental illness.

He said that because of stigmatisation, people do not voluntarily visit the mental health facility for treatment.

According to him, the Mental Health Act would help address stigmatisation.

“As at now, we do not have a Mental Health Act, the one we are operating on has been there since 1958 and was left by our colonial masters.

“It is important that people with mental illness should be less stigmatised and encouraged.

“Awareness should be created by the media to let people know that mental illness is not as serious as it is.

“It has treatment and a lot of people with mental illness are being treated and are functioning well in the society,” Owoeye said.

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