By Amby Uneze in Owerri
The Federal Government in the 2016 Budget Appropriation made provision for the construction of one mental health clinic in each senatorial zone of the country, as the ones sited in the South East States have been awarded, for purposes of stimulating fast recovery of psychiatric patients if they are treated closer to their environment.
Disclosing this fact yesterday during the inaugural zonal meeting of community mental health project officer for the South East zone held in Owerri, the Medical Director of Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, (FNHE), Dr. Jojo Onwukwe revealed that records showed that over 9,000 psychiatric patients were recorded in the institution within the last five years. He said that about 2,000 patients were brought to the facility annually for treatment.
He noted that it was more cost effective and easy to adapt the environment and reduces stress if patients were brought to a health facility that was closer to them. “We looked at the disadvantages of crowding patients in a hospital, it takes them at least two weeks for them to adapt the new system in the hospital, but when they are treated in a mental health facility closer to them, it makes them feel they are still within their immediate environment”.
“It is better to treat them in their localities. Research findings show that those treated within their immediate communities recovered faster than those taken far place. It is now global issue to decentralise the mental health facilities than to have one central place that cannot afford the patients recover faster”.
According to Dr. Onwukwe, the zonal meetings were divided into two prone stages: advocacy and awareness, and construction of mental health clinics attacked to primary health centre (PHCs) in the South east.
He maintained that the advocacy and awareness angle became necessary in order to draw attention to effort of the federal government towards handling cases of mental health issues, while construction of facilities had already taken off which was entirely done by the federal government.
In his remarks, the Consultant for the Mental Advocacy and Awareness Programme, Dr. Ejike Oji said that the prevalence of mental health was reported at 20 per cent, noting that one facility was equal to 1.4 million patients compared with its equivalent figure in Europe which stands at one facility to 1,000 patients.
He observed that it was for the demand that created the need for more and closer mental health facilities, adding that it was to ensure awareness for mental health services that FNHE felt everyone has access to quality health care.
Welcoming stakeholders to the meeting, the Medical Director, Okparavero Memorial Hospital, Sapele, Dr. Chijioke Kaduru, said that mental health often does not receive due attention, even though it was a major issue.
He decried the situation where mental health was completely excluded from key health sector documents and probably remained underfunded.