Two female psychiatric patients got a new lease of life recently after being rehabilitated, courtesy of Chief Afe Babalola, founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti.
The two citizens from Ondo and Kogi states were picked up from the streets in Ekiti State and taken for treatment at the Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti.
At a ceremony where the duo were reunited with their families after 15 years of separation, a psychiatric expert, Dr Joshua Falade, said the two women were brought to life through Babalola’s philanthropy after roaming about in the forest and streets for years.
Dr. Falade added that, “After recovery, we were able to trace their families where we were told that they had suffered mental illness and got lost where they were receiving treatment.”
Chief Babalola who also spoke at the ceremony disclosed that his university had taken approval from the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi to take mentally ill citizens off the streets of Ekiti for rehabilitation.
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He said: “What I did was to display passion for humanity and I believe we can all do same. The lunatics on the streets are humans. Don’t stone or discriminate against them. Instead of doing that, bring them to ABUADTH for treatment.”
Besides ensuring that the two women got medical treatment, the ABUAD founder adopted them as his daughters. He promised to set up businesses for them that would make them successful in life.
Mental health challenges are on the rise in Nigeria. Experts believe that the upsurge is not unconnected with economic hardship being experienced by individuals and families.
The mental health conditions manifest in the form of bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia. Alcohol and drug abuse, which is rampant in our society, also account for the rising cases of mental illnesses.
In February last year, the Federal Ministry of Health stated that between 20 and 30 percent of Nigerians now suffer mental conditions.
With a population of 200 million, the implication, according to the Permanent Secretary of the health ministry, Dr Abdulaziz Abdullahi, is that the country has up to 60 million persons with mental illnesses.
While the population of mental health sufferers keeps rising, records show that the number of psychiatrists to attend to patients is abysmal. Nigeria can only boast of less than 200 psychiatrists, implying that there is just about one specialist to a million citizens.
The ratio of psychiatric nurses to patients and the number of neuropsychiatric hospitals in the country are also grossly disproportionate and alarming.
In some federal neuropsychiatric hospitals, patients are now placed on waiting list to get bed space, leaving the victims and their families stranded and confused.
Furthermore, the level of awareness about mental health issues among the citizens is very poor.
Treatment and care for victims of mental illness consume time and financial resources, making the sufferers end up roaming the streets, when relations get overwhelmed by the situation. Stigmatisation is also a troubling issue for sufferers and their relations.
Occasionally, the mentally ill persons are attacked and lynched by irate mobs who accuse them falsely of being ritual killers disguising as lunatics. Incoherent utterances of the helpless victims are all the mobs need to pronounce them guilty and sentenced to jungle justice.
It is against this background that Chief Babalola’s decision to take lunatics off the streets for rehabilitation is better appreciated.
While urging governments at all levels to be more alive to their responsibilities of caring for the welfare of all citizens, and particularly, the mentally ill who are unable to care for themselves, we also urge more well-to-do citizens, institutions, companies and humanitarian organisations to emulate Chief Babalola’s example.
It is our collective shame and a slight on our humanity to allow our unfortunate and helpless fellow citizens to roam the streets, in some cases, nude, while we go on with our lives unconcerned.