The Ekiti State Government and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) have said the increasing level of mental illnesses among youths due to the high spate of drug abuse is worrisome to policymakers.
They said a large percentage of those suffering all manners of mental illnesses is the result of inordinate indulgence in the consumption of illicit drugs, particularly, Indian Hemp, heroin and cocaine.
They advised the people of the state to take the issue of mental health seriously, saying mental imbalance can ruin the lives of the populace.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr Olabanji Filani and the Head of Public Affairs, NDLEA, Mr Peter Njoku, spoke in Ado Ekiti, on Saturday, during an event commemorating the 2020 world mental health day tagged: ‘Mental Health For All’.
The Commissioner said many of those suffering mental illness were afraid of seeking treatment at the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital with quality facilities due to the high level of stigmatization attached to the disease.
“For us, we have the huge role to play in raising awareness on mental illness, and most importantly telling our people to reduce the stigma that is associated with the illness and developing a framework that meets mental health needs.
“Ekiti is now determined to develop a policy that prioritises mental health as a key component of primary healthcare in Ekiti State. We will start by ensuring that people with mental illness are treated with dignity and respect”.
Mr Njoku, the NDLEA operative warned that a lot of mental health related disease will continue to unfold as long as the youths refuse to abstain from hard drug consumption.
“Hard drugs worth several billions of naira were being intercepted at airports and land borders within the country by our operatives in the last few years. This portrays a very bad omen for all of us.
“Most of our youths are into hard drugs consumption and this accounts for a high percentage of mental illnesses in towns. When you observe that your child is behaving strangely or becoming dirty or moving with bad company, try and report to us to handle the situation.
“Our office doesn’t only make arrests and prosecute consumers and sellers of hard drugs, we also rehabilitate those already suffering the negative side by weaning them from consuming the dangerous drugs”.
Also, the First Lady of Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, called on stakeholders in the health sector to urgently develop an institutional framework to respond to mental health challenges in the State.
Mrs Fayemi said efforts must be put in place to prioritize the safety of women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence, stressing that GBV is a by-product of unhealthy mental health.
She said the World Mental Health Day is set aside globally, to raise the profile on mental health issues and bring to the attention of stakeholders and authorities.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30 percent of Nigerians suffer from mental illnesses while over seven million Nigerians suffer from depression which is one category of mental illness.