The most important resource for any organization or nation is her human resource – the people. It should therefore be a no-brainer that any organization or nation that desires to be successful and productive will invest in her human resources. They will ensure that they are equipped and provided the best tools to enhance the chances of success. The most basic of these investments will be to ensure that your staff or citizens are healthy and fit for purpose.
The World Health Organization defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, MENTAL, and social wellbeing’. Thus, health can be conceptualized as a stool sitting on 3 legs: physical leg, mental leg and social leg. Are we paying attention to any of these 3 legs of health in Nigeria?
We are failing woefully across the spectrum of public health for our citizens: from promotion to prevention to early identification and treatment and lastly, rehabilitation. This is especially true for mental and social wellbeing and only slightly better (but still a failure) in the area of physical health.
With armed conflicts in the north east going on for over a decade now, with millions dislocated, thousands dead, millions traumatized and brutalized -including children and girls forcefully abducted, are we alright? Where are the efforts at winning the minds and societal healing via intensive psychosocial re-engineering and rebuilding? Are we waiting for the fire next time, when the brutalized children grow into maturity, feeling abandoned and not cared for? Yet, where funds are allocated both by government and civil society (NGOs) for rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDPs), they are also looted. Insecurity and unknown gunmen activities are increasingly making the south east unsafe. Are we going to just watch as things deteriorate?
Our youths are so frustrated (and I daresay, misguided) that they are willing to cross the desert and risk slavery and treacherous sea crossings in search of a better life. Others are seriously planning to jump ship and ‘japa’ abroad. While across the rank and file of politicians and senior civil servants, mindlessly looting is the order of the day. Shouldn’t alarm bells be ringing?
Drug abuse is on the increase, insecurity is rife with kidnappings and armed robbery attacks, unemployment rates are high, our infrastructure is poor, the minds of the youth appear fixated on instant wealth with no labour – leading to yahoo yahoo (internet fraud) and other crimes. Yet our politicians do not realize the clear and present danger and the urgent need to inspire hope and chart a clear pathway for progress. Are they really oblivious?
There is a proliferation of ethnic and religious jingoists, who are relentlessly fanning the embers of hatred and fermenting discord. They are unfortunately, being abetted by sections of the media, who maliciously skew their headlines to inflame passions. The ivory towers and ´educated elites´ are also not spared from this virus, as they actively embrace it for selfish reasons when it can help their self advancement. Are we blind, not to see the ramifications of all these actions once the genie is unleashed from the bottle and it runs amok within the populace?
Criminal Neglect of Mental Health.
Ignorance, shame and stigma remain huge barriers preventing the utilization of mental health services. With the rising cases of mental illness, drug abuse and suicides, in an ocean of hopelessness, poverty and social difficulties, it is a shame that mental health remains neglected by governments at federal and state levels. The revised mental health policy of 2013 still does not have an accompanying mental health plan to guide implementation – 7 years afterwards. There is a Desk Officer for Mental Health at the Federal Level, who needs to be empowered and supported, but less than 5 states have Desk Officers for Mental Health. Attempted suicide remains a crime, punishable by 1 year jail term; and we still operate an obsolete Lunacy Act of 1958. The revised Mental Health Bill is yet to be signed into law. Drug abuse is rife and available at all motor parks and street junctions – openly so. Yet we are surprised at ghastly motor accidents and reckless motorcycle riders.
As we celebrate 62 years of nationhood, we have many challenges but they are not insurmountable. They only require a conscious and strategic campaign to change minds and attitudes for the better; via societal re-engineering. Nation building can never be accidental. It must be deliberate and calculated, with a focus on investments in a healthy populace. And optimal mental health should necessarily be a core consideration. All hands need to be on deck, especially as we start preparations for the 2023 elections. Yes, We Can. Powered by an informed, patriotic, physically as well as MENTALLY healthy citizenry.
Dr Jibril Abdulmalik
Tribune Article for the column “Your Mental Health & You”
Thursday, 6th October 2022