Mental illness is any disease or condition that influences the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and/or relates to others and to his or her surroundings. Although the symptoms of mental illness can range from mild to severe and are different depending on the type of mental illness, a person with an untreated mental illness often is unable to cope with life’s daily routines and demands. Mental illnesses can be put into two types – Psychoses and Neuroses. Psychoses: symptoms are normally severe, so much so that the person actually looses touch with the real world.
People are usually not alert to the fact they are ill or their behavior is unusual. Neuroses: Symptoms are usually of less severity than psychoses, though they are disturbing for those involved. The person is still in touch with reality. They are aware of the fact they are ill and have some concerns over their health and their ill health Mental illness can either be Chronic – Lasts for a long time or starts slowly. Acute – short in duration, severe and sudden. List of mental disorders •Dementia •Depression •Panic Disorder •Social anxiety disorder •Generalized anxiety disorder •Agoraphobia •Bipolar disorder •Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
•Post-traumatic stress disorder. •ADHD •Parkinson’s Disease •Huntington disease •Alzheimer’s disease •Schizophrenia •Anorexia nervosa •Antisocial Personality Disorder •Autism •Borderline Personality Disorder•Schizophrenia •Bulimia nervosa Causes of Mental Illness Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors — not personal Weakness or a character defect — and recovery from a mental illness is not simply a matter of will and self-discipline.
•Heredity (genetics): Many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting they may be passed on from parents to children through genes. Genes contain instructions for the function of each cell in the body and are responsible for how we look, act, think, etc. However, just because your mother or father may have or had a mental illness does not mean you will have one. Hereditary just means that you are more likely to get the condition than if you didn’t have an affected family member.
Experts believe that many mental conditions are linked to problems in multiple genes — not just one, as with many diseases — which is why a person inherits a susceptibility to a mental disorder but does not always develop the condition. The disorder itself occurs from the interaction of these genes and other factors — such as psychological trauma and environmental stressors — which can influence, or trigger, the illness in a person who has inherited a susceptibility to it. •Biology: Some mental illnesses have been linked to an abnormal balance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or are not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of mental illness. In addition, defects in or injury to certain areas of the brain also have been linked to some mental conditions. •Psychological trauma: Some mental illnesses may be triggered by psychological trauma suffered as a child, such as severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; a significant early loss, such as the loss of a parent; and neglect.
•Environmental stressors: Certain stressors — such as a death or divorce, a dysfunctional family life, changing jobs or schools, and substance abuse — can trigger a disorder in a person who may be at risk for developing a mental illness. Unfortunately, most mental illnesses are caused by a combination of factors and cannot be prevented. How Common Is Mental Illness in Nigeria? The problem we have in Nigeria is that there is no statistics officially, but as at 2007, according to the World Health Organization, we had 20 percent of Nigerian suffering mentally. It should be about 28 percent now, based on inferences from the indices.
Findings also reveal that in the same year, they were having 20 new patients admitted at the psychiatric hospital in Yaba, in Lagos alone, everyday. We are not talking of LASUTH and other hospitals, and people who don’t come for psychiatric help. There are huge millions of Nigerians going through one depressive disorder or the other. Mental illnesses are very common. In fact, they are more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. It is generally agreed that rates of schizophrenia are generally similar from country to country—about . 5% to 1 percent of the population.
Major depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are among the Nigeria’s top 10 mental illness leading causes of disability. Mental illness does not discriminate. It can affect people of any age, income or educational level, and cultural background. Although mental illness affects both males and females, certain conditions — such as eating disorders — tend to occur more often in females, and other disorders — such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — more commonly occur in children. Treatment of Mental illness A mental illness, like many chronic illnesses, requires ongoing treatment.
Fortunately, much progress has been made in the last two decades in treating mental illnesses. As a result, many mental conditions can be effectively treated with one or a combination of the following therapies: •Medication. •Psychotherapy. •Group therapy. •Day treatment or partial hospital treatment. •Specific therapies, such as cognitive-behavior therapy and behavior modification. Other treatments available include: •Alternative therapies, such as water therapy, massage, and biofeedback. •Creative therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, or play therapy. •Hypnotherapy.
•Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). •Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). •Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a newer therapy. When diagnosed early and treated properly, many people fully recover from their mental illness or are able to successfully control their symptoms. Although some people become disabled because of a chronic or severe mental illness, many others are able to live full and productive lives. In fact, as many as 8 in 10 people suffering from a mental illness can effectively return to their normal activities if they receive appropriate treatment.
Problems associated with mental illness in Nigeria •Stigmatization •Discrimination •Neglect •Abandonment •Inadequate facilities/health personnel •Lack of financial resources Mental Health Care in Nigeria Our health sector is in a mess, mental health services are in the extreme end of that mess. Our society does not make it any better either. Several papers have shown our society has still not come to terms with mental illness and still belive that supernatural factors are responsible for developing these conditions.
A survey of Nigerian households identified the stigma associated with mental health and addiction as one of the biggest obstacles to care. Drs. Rosenheck, Iheanacho and Marienfeld administered Recent surveys indicate that nine of ten persons with mental disorders in Nigeria do not receive services. Despite a population of over 150 million, the country has few trained psychiatrists—roughly one psychiatrist for every million residents. There are around 130 working psychiatrists in the whole of Nigeria. Almost all of these psychiatrists are based in one of the country’s large specialist hospitals in major cities.
The majority of mental health services are provided by 8 regional psychiatric centers and psychiatric departments and medical schools of 12 major universities. A few general hospitals also provide mental health services. The formal centers often face competition from native herbalists and faith healing centers. Mental health victims are regularly stigmatized, scorned and neglected, they are seen everywhere in Nigeria as being unfortunate, sinistral and possessed by evil powers and not fit to be classed as normal human beings. Most of the people suffering mental illness are often shackled, locked up and beaten.
A lot of these victims are everywhere on the streets of Nigeria, in their own little-confused world, cut out from others and rated as being obsessed with evil spirits that must be ignored and done away with. They are regularly beaten and no one wants to come near them or offer any assistance. When the victims are hungry and go to people for assistance, they are often ignored and the people they go to are advised to register for spiritual cleansing and deliverance in the various religious places so they can be cleansed of the evil spirits that have just visited them.
The mental health victims are often taken to traditional herbalists, spiritualists, witch-doctors and other religious places where is believed that the priests can consult the gods to drive away the evil spirit they have been bewitched with. In these places, the mental patients are subjected to the worst human treatment because of the belief that they are possessed by evil spirits, they are given bad food, concoctions made from various incogitable herbs and spices and they are made to sleep outside on the floor in the worst of weathers, while others are incarcerated in dark, lonely, damp, cells with no lights.
There is the belief that the victims are not capable of doing their own reasoning and only will reason if beaten. Some of these priests turn the victims into beggars taking them around the streets in shackles, begging alms and making money out of them. It could not get worse and these have gone on for so long in Nigeria’s various communities, because everybody considers it acceptable. The families of the victims in Nigeria are not helping equally; they simply want to get rid of what they consider as embarrassment and are fast to dump the victims in these despicable places to cover their shame.
Many do not go back to see their mentally ill relations again and these are the reasons the victims are treated like criminals. How to improve Mental health care in Nigeria Mental health care in Nigeria can be improved upon through the following ways •Enlightenment /awareness on the nature of mental illness through the media (such as been done for HIV/AIDS), this will enable the people to understand and support victims of the disease and reduce stigmatization. •Improved Social support from family and the society.
•Improved funding by government for psychiatric clinics and staffs. •Adequate legislation and policies concerning mental health. •Increased number of treatment centers that are well equipped. •Subsidized and available medication. Conclusion Mental illness does not just develop in people; it is often the accumulation of emotional breakdowns through loss, panic attacks, phobias, heartbreaks, and anxiety. It could also be due to lack of self confidence, stress, depression, schizophrenia and loneliness. There are many more reasons people could be mentally ill.
It is important we get a quick help once we get ourselves into any of these problems, as difficult as it may seems, most of us suffer one mental health problem or the other, but it is how we deal with them that determines how far we go. Nigerians are quick to conclude that only those who are completely cut out are mentally ill, but most of us are one way or the other mentally ill and regularly needs help. The mental health victims should not be stigmatized, and they can recover fully and get over their worst, though some may relapse from time to time due to vulnerability, but many will emerge from the experience feeling stronger and wiser.
Most Nigerians have gone through a lot of stress over the years caused by bad and clueless leadership. We have experienced the worst poverty anywhere, and the loss of our loved ones through tragic deaths, inadequate infrastructures that keeps life going and many more problems. All these contribute to mental breakdown and inability to lead a reasonable life often leading to depression and consequent mental illness. We need to be more receptive and supportive of ourselves through these trying periods.
Let us change our views about mental illness, it is just another natural process we all go through, we all get sick in bad conditions, we get headaches, body aches, malaria and even cancer. Most of these other diseases are worse than some of the mental health conditions and anyone could experience it and recover from it like any other diseases. It is not an affliction from any bad spirit. Let us treat mental health sufferers with respect and not shun them. Some of them are only going through a lot at the time and with our support they can come back stronger.