Reps decry growing cases of mental illness in Nigeria

Leke Baiyewu, Abuja

The House of Representatives has mandated its Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities across Nigeria and carry out “serious” sensitisation of Nigerians on mental health.

The House also mandated the Committee on Health Institution to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health, and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

A member of the House, Uchechukwu Nnam-Obi, moved a motion at the plenary on Thursday, titled ‘Need to Address the Rising Cases of Mental Health in Nigeria,’ which the lawmakers unanimously adopted.

According to him, the World Health Organisation considers mental health as a state of wellbeing in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community.

The lawmaker noted that mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.

He cited WHO statistics as saying over 20 million Nigerians are currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.


Nnam-Obi said, “The House observes that three out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other, and presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatisation against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalised standards for psychiatric practice;

“The House is concerned that the increase in cases of depression is traceable to multi-factorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention.

“The House is also concerned that Nigeria has only 130 psychiatrists with over 20 million citizens suffering from mental disorders.

“The House is worried that with the few functional mental health facilities and inadequate mental health practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.

“The House is also worried that the statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the country will simply cause the situation to degenerate.”