Help for mental health patients

It is extremely hard to have a family member with mental health illness in Nigeria, societal stigma is just one hurdle, another one is people making up all sorts of reasons they think one has mental health problem, most of the reasons has one denominator – village enemy. Bigger challenge I think is not knowing where to go for help.

There are so many projects going on in Osun state but this rehabilitation project is highly commendable. I first read this detailed article last month about O’Rehab, the government apparently is working with five different psychiatry units in SW. They follow what they termed 4 Rs – retrieval, rehabilitation, repatriation and re-integration.

It is also good to know that patients are being helped with technical training to help integrate them into the society.

‘The Ilobu rehab center of the scheme trains healed patients on diverse vocational skills like soap making, bead making, tailoring, hair dressing and various crafts after they would have been treated”

Understanding of mental health is pretty bad, I know we have a long way to go, but state government taking active steps to help people off the streets is a massive step forward to get people talking about mental health, its prevalence and understanding of different types there are.

Here is a very good example to shows how mental health patients are treated even by their own family:

“We presently have the case of a 29-year-old female lawyer who after law school and service, developed a mental challenge and we picked her up, it was during rehabilitation that we discovered that she is the daughter of a renowned person in the society but we can’t mention names. The father showed up and said it was when her trouble became too enormous and she became a threat to them that he abandoned her to her helpless mother who took her to churches where she was chained and which aggravated her condition.”

I appreciate that this example is used, there are too much that is packed in that paragraph. It shows how even a family member can easily pushed their own kin out of ignorance.

I am also glad to read that the state has started to clamp down on what they called Unqualified Rehabilitation Homes In Osun. Apparently one was found along Iwo-Osogbo road a few days ago and they have confirmed the premises is unacceptable.

“… the Government has moved fast to evacuate the emaciated mentally challenged persons who were found to be in different deplorable states of health to its facilities at the state hospital and rehabilitation home while the State Police Command continues with its full investigations.”

I am elated to read this. These unqualified rehabilitation homes is non other than faith homes and traditional healers. The condition people are exposed to is appalling, people are chained and heavily drugged.

This is progress that should make us all happy.

Here are the 5 hospitals that Osun state has partnered with to help treat people with mental health illness from Osun:

  • Ladoke Akintola University of Technology teaching hospital, Ogbomosho
  • Obafemi Awolowo University teaching hospital, Ile Ife
  • Yaba Psychiatric Hospital, Lagos
  • Aro Psychiatric Hospital in Abeokuta
  • Government Hospital, Asubiaro Osogbo

It is always nice to read of good progress that touches hearts from home. More power to everyone working on this scheme.

Categories: Family, Myths I grow up with, Nigeria, Religion

Tags: , ,

33 replies

  1. Oh my, I was shocked to read: “The father showed up and said it was when her trouble became too enormous and she became a threat to them that he abandoned her to her helpless mother who took her to churches where she was chained and which aggravated her condition.”

    I would love to learn more about what faith communities are doing to improve care for folks with mental illnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Faith communities often provide safe place where people with mental health illnesses get shelter, food, clothing and counselling with family paying fees for service rendered.

      I think treatment differs greatly between faith communities. Some will combine prayers and modern medicines to rehabilitate patients, while others will rely on prayers for healing. What seems to be common across board is the physical restraints of patients i.e chains even when none is needed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. As a student with the aspirations to become a mental health practitioner, i am so happy to read that steps are being taken to raise some type of awareness. Too many Nigerians with some type of MH disorder are suffering due to the stigma attached to the fear of the unknown. I hope to one day also be able to contribute and help change the perception of society when it comes to mental health because it is very real indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The progress is indeed commendable, considering where they were coming from ie not caring at all. My question, is who is in charge of the program? Who was responsible for this initiative? I suspect they may have spent some time outside of Nigeria, because it is highly unusual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It must have been a collaborative efforts of well informed people to convince the government that this is a worthwhile initiative, shouldn’t be a hard sell, I think but requires strategic efforts. Osun state has quite a few returnees working for the government especially from UK and the USA so I think you are right in assuming people behind the initiative are from diaspora.


      • That must be the case, I read the article and many people had spent years on the streets.

        An interesting point is that if people keep tossing their traumatised family members on the street, and in the same breath say there is ‘no case of mental illness in the family’, well if everyone was tossed out or chained up and beaten to death – it is no wonder that is the case.

        No family is perfect, and there should be a push on to de-stigmatise having physical or mentally challenged people in one’s family. That would tend to reduce the need for such dire treatment and encourage the families to seek help.

        The skills to rehabilitate the people, should be broadened if a person is capable of more then there should be a way for them to use those skills, asking them to weave hair or weave baskets when they are capable of much more is tantamount to criminality.

        Nevertheless, respect to Baba Aregbesola for caring and not simply pocketing the money and looking the other way, like his fellow governors throughout the nation.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree on respect for Aregbesola, he has been a ‘listening’ leader on a number of social issues.

          I think the reason people keep tossing their family member with MH problem out is perhaps because less is known about the spectrum and people only tend to go medical way after they have spent their last kobo to herbalists, TB Joshuas, Alfas. Many families drop their sons/daughters in a different state during the episode, making it difficult (shame, lack of fund) to go back home – this is one of the major reasons we have so many on our roads.

          Watch this young man and hear his story. This is very common. The guy is even lucky he has a fantastic grandmother who loved him unconditionally. We need more of this to raise awareness.


          • I saw the clip and it was touching especially the last part where he was speaking. What he said is symptomatic of the nation, always looking outside for answers, when the answer may be right on your doorstep.

            More needs to be done as regards preparing people to become parents. It is not when issues arise and you abandon the child as is not uncommon there. Parents should be taught to prepare for any eventuality and learn to face the challenges.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ha jco, glad you spot that part where help is been sought from outside. I think that is because many people don’t know other nations (west) have mental health issues and even when they did, the believe is that the west have a magic wand to make all things better in an instant – this is the picture we have been sold for a long time even by our own people, it is the same reason our politicians make the whole nation pay for their expensive oversea health bills.

              Did you hear why the king say he had to withdraw his help? Ritual rumour – there is comes up again, people go extra miles to propagate lies and the ‘Samaritan’ had to withdraw his help. Here is the question – why don’t we carry this same rumour if the person involved is a non Yoruba/Nigerian?

              We will get there one day.


  4. The stigmatism is in many countries. Many people are uneducated about mental illness even though a great amount of people are affected by these illnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The early detection, treatment, and management of people with mental illness is a problem also in Kenya. Most ethnic communities believe it is caused bya jealous neighbours, a wrong done by family, or a curse. Unfortunately, the few psychologists and psychiatrists in Kenya focus on those who can afford exorbitant fees. Evangelical churches have made it their business to cast out spells and strongly reinforce the traditional beliefs that mental disorder are as a result of evil spirits.
    This attitude makes it hard for government initiated programs to to be effective.
    Hope is there in organisations that are focusing on creating awareness about mental illness and encouraging families and communities to understand that the affected people are not cursed and that they need compassion.


    • Thanks for sharing your views. Sounds like mirror image of what we have in Nigeria, those jealous neighbours/ evil spirits seem to be the cause of all ills.

      It is incredible how much damage unfounded beliefs have done to people’s psyche. Evangelical churches in Nigeria have similar tactics as Kenya.

      True re psychiatrist and high costs, but often often people just don’t know what to do or place to seek help.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Amazing. Mental health is sooo important. I’m glad they are taking the initiative to build hospitals catering to this issue and not relegating mental health issues to be dealt with by the church/prayer camps. Progress !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Folakemi,

    Thanks for this spotlight on mental issues in Nigeria, and the attempt being made by Osun State in Southwestern Nigeria.

    Nigeria’s various levels of government have never shown much interest nor caution about medical health of their people but the issue of mental health is perhaps more neglected than all the others. Resources, especially funds, may be constrained but even the little available are often stolen, mis-applied and/or under-utilized.

    At the base of the problem are some facts. As Nedoux points out, “people fear what they do not know”, and lack of knowledge as well as MIS-understanding is rampant about mental issues at least in SW Nigeria, my real homeland. This is important as the different nationalities that make up the country often see issues from different angles; this point is made to avoid sounding I offer opinions on Nigeria as a whole.

    People see mental issues as a shameful happening to – and on – a family as is evident in the example given of the father abandoning the young woman. Two, lack of knowledge leads families to look where help does not exist because (perhaps) most believe it’s caused by others, like a spell being cast, on someone. This leads them to take the afflicted to churches, local “treatment” places that are right out of ancient times; beatings, tieing up, food deprivation … are supposedly being used in 21st Century many SW “Mental Hospitals”.

    Mass propagation of basic mental health issues: causes, showing compassion and tenderness, handling of mentally-challenged at the earliest display by taking people to nearest GOVERNMENT hospitals where they would, if needed, be referred to teaching hospitals … is an early intervention approach by governments at state level.

    I’m sure government can get a lot of input on above by working with their state hospitals and teaching hospitals.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Mrs Adenle. Like many of government led program in Osun, having a blueprint for this scheme is crucial so that when power changes hand, whoever comes after can continue to have a budget for this. Fingers crossed.


  8. Hello Folake,

    A very relevant topic.

    People fear what they do not understand. The way I see it, the brain /mind is a part of the body, so same way the liver or heart can have problems, the brain can too. It’s that simple.

    Lol @ “village enemy” the one who gets blamed for all problems seemingly supernatural. 😀

    The Rehab is an excellent initiative.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you!

      You know how much I always scream when ‘village enemy’ comes up, why do they think it is a crime to come from the village? 🙂 Sometimes I even doubt myself, making sure my fangs aren’t too obvious 🙂 You Lagosians already taken everything away from us: our uncles and aunties – left us with bad schools/roads etc yet they still wouldn’t let us ‘suffer’ in peace 🙂 Nigeria tire me!

      Seriously, I agree it is the fear of the unknown. Now we learn from others across the world how to best help, fingers crossed for us all.


  9. This is a step in the right direction hopefully government can follow through ensuring that people with mental challenge get the needed help and support. It is just so disheartening to see mentally ill persons roaming our streets with no one paying attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mental health issues are something that every country has to deal with. Our country, Canada, would probably get a D- for their efforts. I’m so glad to hear that your country seems to have found a solution, Fola. We desperately need improvement in this area.

    Liked by 1 person

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