Family physicians under the aegis of the Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria, have raised the alarm that the ongoing recession is taking its toll on Nigerians’ mental health.
According to those who spoke at the World Family Physician Day seminar at the Eko Hospital in Lagos, about seven million Nigerians are living with depression.
The President of SOFPON, Lagos Zone, Dr. Blessing Chukwukwelu, who urged Nigerians to watch out for mental health systems, said that economic hardship had pushed many Nigerians into depression, a situation, she said, had increased suicide attempts in the country.
Chukwukelu also identified poor awareness and acute shortage of experts and health centres to manage the symptoms of the disease for the ugly situation.
She said, “We hear of people drinking sniper to end their lives these days. Some leave suicide notes, many don’t. The economy is one of the environmental factors that can trigger depression and it is not a coincidence that it was the World Health Day Theme for 2017.”
Chukwukelu said family physicians must have a higher index of suspicion by quickly identifying mentally challenged patients who needed to be managed aggressively or progressively.
“ We need to train family health physicians to recognise mental heath symptoms. Preventing a condition at this level will not let it progress to the secondary level. When a physician takes a good history, he/she is able to diagnose the disorder; family physicians have the tools to tackle and also refer cases to the psychiatrist when he needs to,” she noted.
In his address, the National President of the association, Dr. Akin Moses, who described depression as a global health challenge, stated that a new research carried out in the last two years showed that 29 million people in Africa were depressed while 322 million were affected with depression globally.
Moses noted that investigations into the lives of most Nigerians who had attempted or committed suicide lately showed that they had had to cope with stressful conditions.
“As if stressful conditions are not sufficient, negative life events such as bereavement, job loss, financial difficulty, divorce, loneliness, childhood abuse and neglect can trigger depression.”