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WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY 2021 MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEBINAR BY APHPN BENUE STATE BRANCH

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The Makurdi, University of Washington online course Site in collaboration with Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) Benue State Branch, organized a webinar on Mental Health Awareness on Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 4.00pm (GMT+1). Fifty-two participants attended the webinar.
The webinar moderator, Dr. Terkaa T. Bitto; Chairman, APHPN Benue State Branch, shared the theme of the 2021 World Mental Health Day: “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality”. World Mental Health Day is marked to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support of mental health, with an opportunity for all stakeholders to interact on how to make mental health care a reality for people in Nigeria and worldwide.
The President, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN); Prof. Alphonsus Rukevwe Isara gave a welcome address. He reiterated the high index of suspicion required by health workers to identify mental illness and the need to scale up quality mental health services in our communities and the Country.
The guest speaker, Dr. Michael Agbo Amedu a Consultant Psychiatrist with Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, made a presentation on: Factors affecting access to mental healthcare in Nigeria and way forward.
He defined Mental Illness/Disorders as, illness with psychological or behavioural manifestations and abnormalities with emotions, thoughts, cognition, sensory perceptions, beliefs, behaviour and associated; significantly increased risk of suffering, death, pain, disability and important loss of freedom.
The high burden of mental illness was discussed. Globally, one in every 4-5 persons is affected by mental illness. Nigeria had 20.3 suicides per 100,000 people per year (WHO, 2015). The Mental Health Treatment Gap (mhGAP) showed that, 75 – 90% of people with mental illness in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC), lack access to modern and evidence based mental health care. Public expenditure on mental health was lower in LMIC compared with High Income Countries (HIC).
The factors affecting access to mental healthcare in Nigeria included; factors related to access (adequacy of supply, effectiveness, equity, distance and waiting time), ignorance, myths, religion (belief in miracles and supernatural healing), cultural factors, policy issues (less than 50% of African countries having a Mental Health Policy), inadequate funding (about 80% of Countries in Africa spend less than 1% of their health budget on Mental Health). Others were: dearth of mental health services at the Primary Health Care (PHC) level, high cost of care (<5% of the population on health insurance, high out-of-pocket payment, costly newer generation drugs), very few rehabilitation centers, negative public portrayal/representation and few mental health specialists.
The way forward posited included: public enlightenment programs (at churches, mosques, schools, media houses and webinars), advocacy to patient groups, families, NGOs and celebrities, effective legal framework for mental health (bills, laws), infrastructure provision (hospitals, homes, half-way-homes, rehabs, workshops), manpower training and recruitment (mental health specialists), improved budgetary allocation, training for other health workers (Resident Doctors, Family Physicians, Community Health Physicians and Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWS).

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