Pharmacist interns in collaboration with the Pharmacy Department, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, have appealed to the Federal Government to set up several specialist hospitals in the country, in order to reduce the burden on the few existing facilities.
The interns, also known as 30 beautiful minds (30BM), made the plea during an awareness programme they organised in commemoration of 2021 World Mental Health Day.
Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her com.
According to experts, symptoms of mental health challenges include pulling away from people and usual activities, feeling numb, feeling helpless or hopeless, having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head, hearing voices or believing things that are not true, and thinking of harming yourself or others.
Recent statistics place the global prevalence of mental illness at close to one billion people. And one out of every seven 10-19 years old experience a mental disorder. It is also known that people with severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia die at least 10 years earlier than the general population.
Speaking on the theme of the programme, “Mental health in an unequal world: Need for mental health equity” the keynote speaker, Pharm. (Mrs) Olawunmi Peters, said mental health day is centered on a cause she is very passionate about – access to mental health.
Pharm. Peters explained how inequality is plaguing access to quality mental health services. She said health inequalities are the biases and unnecessary disparities in peoples’ health across a population or among a specific group of people. “These differences always contradict the principles of social justice and ultimately affect the life expectancy and quality of life of the disadvantaged person or group,” she added.
She narrated a story of one of her patients, who went through mental health disorder, saying: “There is a very good example of a patient who I came across about 6 years ago – let’s call her Esther. Life dealt with Esther in a very bad way and society only helped to make things even more difficult.
“I met Esther when she was 30 years old, unmarried and newly diagnosed with clinical depression. Out of frustration of being unmarried, Esther soon began to slip into depression and even contemplated suicide twice. She would sleep for long hours and began to fall back on her work deadlines. Soon enough, she lost her job as a bank manager and had to move in with her widow mother. She also started eating a lot, gained excess weight and totally lost interest in life.
“You see, Esther’s mum lived in Ibadan and Esther would often be ridiculed for being unmarried, fat and ‘crazy’. With little or no income, the thought of travelling such a long distance to access care at Yaba and receiving medications discouraged her as she could hardly afford the bill any longer. And truly there are many Esthers in this world”, she narrated.
She stated that one must recognise that mental health is an important component of healthcare and universal health coverage, as the World Health Organisation has identified mental health as an area for accelerated implementation. Hence a comprehensive mental health action plan has recently been published by the WHO.
Peters noted that the access to mental healthcare continues to be uneven as individuals who live in rural areas are unable to access treatment at urban facilities where these services are provided, adding that poor road network or lack of transportation services would only help to worsen access.
“Other examples that cause inequality in accessing mental health services include income, gender discrimination, gender orientation, marital status, tribe or educational qualifications.
“As pharmacists at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Yaba, we are constantly looking for ways to bridge this gap in income by sourcing for quality and affordable medicines for low income earners. One way we do this is through our active negotiation with suppliers to get the best and unbeatable price for antipsychotics nationwide. And this is why, our prices for high-end branded antipsychotics remain the lowest anywhere in the country. Yet, we also go above and beyond by sourcing generics whose quality control analysis is top-notch.
“We provide private counseling for women who need the privacy of a counseling cubicle especially when sensitive information needs to be given. Knowing the diverse ethnic nature of our country, we are conscious of providing drug information and health education in different languages to overcome language barrier. Continuous sensitisation and advocacy of mental health by pharmacists helps to destigmatize mental illnesses and this activity cannot be over-emphasised,” she said.
Speaking at the event, Pharm.Oluwakemi Adaeze Ebire, the chairperson, planning committee, said that the symposium marks the end of the interns’ mental health week, put together by her team members and they have decided to make an impact by giving back to the hospital and the community as an appreciation for the opportunity given to them to serve.
“Our event started on 6 October 2021 with a tutorial college outreach where we reached out to over 200 young adults on substance abuse. We spoke extensively on the role of the environment in substance abuse and the need for teenagers to build values and be assertive. Special thanks to our very own Pharm. Christopher Agwu for an awesome presentation on substance abuse.
“This journey started as a weird idea a few months ago and I’m so proud of the work my team and I have put into this to make it a reality. I will like to thank Mrs Peters for her unending support. The deputy directors, assistant directors, chief pharmacist, senior and principal pharmacists for their support, donations, word of advice and for always being in our corner.
“Finally, I will like to emphasize the need for us to be mental health advocates at all times. Let’s preach the mental health gospel at work, in school, in church, in meetings, in family chats. Always advocate for mental health equity, educate people and be the voice of change”, she said.
These interns are, Pharmacists Damilola Lawal (Chief Intern); Victor Funsho-Balogun (Deputy Chief Intern); Ebire Oluwakemi, Adekunle Adeleke; Fatima Ismail; Chidubem Obi-Agina; Jennifer Ugochukwu; Ahly Fasasi; Ogochukwu Orabueze; Peter Ozioko; Oyindamola Lawal; Olayinka Adeyanju; Toluwani Aderemi; Ayobami Aiyeolemi; Oluwadamilola Eyelid; Chijioke Ifeme; Chiamaka Orabuchi; Paul Ugwuaroh; Chinyerem Nwankpa; Bryan Okwuba; Mojisola Oladunni; Ngozi Nwachokor; Anthonia Okonkwo; Victor Ojeah; Ginikachi Okorie; Odo Christopher; Olajide Temitope; Paul Ugwuona; Adanna Osegbo and Sejoro Tonuewa who have chosen to be collectively identified as 30BM.