Lady pharmacists in Lagos State have blamed the surge in mental health disorders among women and girls, on the high prevalence of gender-based violence in the country, as they have appealed to governments at all levels to initiate more effective means of ending the menace.
Their call was in line with the UN Women’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which runs from 25 November to 10 December 2023.
Recent data from the UN Women shows an estimated 736 million women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their life.
This, according to the report has exacerbated the rates of depression and anxiety disorders, which are common mental health conditions, in addition to unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, in women and girls who have experienced one form of violence or the other.
In different interviews with Pharmanewsonline at the Forum organised by the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs) Lagos State Chapter, the female healthcare professionals urged policy makers, women organisations to partner government in tackling violence against women and girls.
The Distinguished Professor of Pharmacy, Cecilia Igwilo, who was the keynote speaker, emphasised the need for government to develop stiffer penalties for perpetrators, which will serve as deterrent to others. She asserted that giving appropriate sanctions to perpetrators, will not only deter others, but will also serve as justice for victims, which will in turn relieve them of trauma from the experience.
“ To end violence against women and girls, government should ensure that perpetrators are brought to book, which will serve as deterrent to others, and also justice for violated persons”, she remarked.
Also speaking with the Vice-Chairman, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Lagos State Chapter, Pharm. (Mrs) Shakirat Adeosun, she identified violence against women as a public health burden, which requires the collaboration of women groups with government and other bodies to eliminate.
She particularly charged women to form formidable organisations that can chart their courses as well as serve as strong support system for survivors of gender-based violence. While primary healthcare centres should be the first port of call for violated persons, she discouraged stigmatisation of victims, which has been a major setback in getting victims to speak out.
“Women need to change their orientation of shaming survivors of gender-based violence, we need to allow them express themselves freely, which will aid their mental healing process. Again when victims start to gather support from their fellow women, it will embolden them to expose their perpetrators, thereby bringing many offenders to book.
“So please, the first thing to do is to stop stigmatising gender-based violence survivors, once thus is in place, cases of mental health disorders will be minimised”, she quipped.
Asked how to maintain safe space for women and girls, in an aggressive world, Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Lagos State, Pharm.(Mrs) Oyebisi Omolambe, advised women to prioritise their safety and mental health above all other things, sayimg learning how to manage a busy life while maintaining sanity is a skill to be learnt by all women.
According to her “Women must learn not to give their all to everyone, else they will end up becoming depressed and sick. For women, learning how to relax and unwind and ease tension is a must.Do not hold your stress and worries inside of you, and have them bottled up. It makes you hot tempered and highly irritable. Learn how to communicate your needs and anxiety strategically.
Corroborating Adeosun’s point, the ALPs Technical Director and former Director at NAFDAC, Dr Monica Eimunjeze, harped on the importance of creating safe platforms for violated women to vent their traumas anonymously, noting this will enhance mental stress relief and give a soothing feeling of belonging to a caring group.
She also mentioned the place of divine intervention and spirituality, as means of coping with gender-based violence, saying that violence can erupt from the work place in form of aggression, suppression or any other form, but people must deliberately insulate themselves from the violence by creating safe spaces to perform their professional obligations.
The Forum, which was coordinated by Pharm.(Mrs) Foluke Akinniranye, was chaired by the Special Adviser on Health to Governor Sanwo-Olu, Mrs Oluwakemi Ogunyemi.
Addressing the lady pharmacists, Mrs Ogunyemi stressed the important role of pharmacists in the healthcare team, saying doctors and nurses rely on them for effective patients care. “When I was working abroad, the team could not start ward round without the pharmacist”, she revealed.
She also urged them to continue adding value to patients in line with the State Governor’s THEMES plus agenda.
The ALPs Chairman,Pharm.(Dr) Afusat Adesina, encouraged members to prioritise their mental health irrespective of the numerous prevalent socio-economic and political challenges in the country, while striving to give their best services at all times.