Expert Calls For Measures To Tackle Anticipated Mental Surge From COVID-19

Dr Lubuola Bamidele, a Consultant Psychiatrist says stakeholders in the health sector should anticipate a surge in mental distress as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Bamidele, a Consultant with the Federal Neuro- Psychiatry Hospital, Kaduna said this in a lecture series of the state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Kaduna.

He said governments have concentrated on the physical treatment of COVID-19, ignoring mental health intervention.

According to him, findings from 284 COVID-19 patients accessed between May 1 and August 30, 2020 at the Kaduna state Isolation Center, showed “over 33 per cent of them developed depression while 19.4 per cent were found to meet the diagnosis of anxiety disorders using Hamilton Anxiety and Depression scales.”

The expert said between 70 to 80 per cent of those with mental illness did not receive effective treatment, though it was available.

Bamidele called for the overhauling of mental health infrastructure and funding, and noted that the country has only 250 psychiatrists to serve a population of over 208 million people.

He also noted that mental health treatment has not been fully integrated into the health insurance scheme.

Bamidele also spoke on challenges affecting mental health management in the country.

“Economic cost due to loss of employment, health and social service cost, reduced productivity, levels of crime and public safety, premature mortality and impact on care givers are among the reflections on the present mental health challenges.

“Future of the youth is also being threatened by substance use disorders.

“So far, no structures for pre and post-test counseling procedures in the assessment and consequent mobilisation to the Isolation Centers.

“A very few among those with mental health correlates were placed on psychotropics.

”There is a demonstrable evidence to show satisfaction with biopsychosocial interventions going by immediate improvement in the sympathetic drive often associated with anxiety and depression, ” Bamidele said.

He also decried the low budgetary allocation for mental health, which he said was less than one per cent.

According to him, the mental health burden would attain global epidemic considering short and long terms impacts of COVID-19.

The expert, therefore, called for individual and government investment in the structures for the prevention of mental illness.

He appealed for more stimulus to address the economic and other pressure among Nigerians to reduce mental illness.

Bamidele said long standing neglect of mental health by policy makers was further widening the burden on the society.

He called for immediate actionable interventions, including promotion of mental health screening among high risk groups in the country.