Professor Taiwo Obindo, president of the Nigerian Association of Psychiatrists, said Nigeria currently has one qualified psychiatrist serving about one million people.
“This development has made the accessibility and availability of psychiatric care relatively difficult in the country,” Obindo told the News Agency of Nigeria in Enugu on Thursday.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the upcoming 53rd Annual Congress of Psychiatrists and Scientific Meeting in Nigeria.
Obindo said as many as two-thirds of trained and certified psychiatrists leave the country each year, contributing to the current negative situation.
“The standard is that one psychiatrist takes care of 10,000 patients. But today, we have one psychiatrist serving more than one million Nigerians,” he said.
“As we speak, we have fewer than 250 board-certified psychiatrists across the country, and more are leaving every day.”
Obindo called for the passage of a revised National Mental Health Act to ensure due process and management of mental health treatment and other issues such as adequate funding and remuneration of professionals.
“Mental health should be integrated into the primary healthcare system to meet the needs of local primary and secondary institutions treating mental illness.
“Currently, the small budget devoted to mental health treatment is only spent in tertiary care settings.
“Mental health should be adequately cared for in primary care centres.
“Infiltrating mental health care into primary care settings will save Nigerians the cost of transport, food and accommodation, and the stress of transporting mentally ill patients to urban centers where mental hospitals can be found,” he said.
Obindo, who works at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, noted that Nigerians trapped in the current insecurity and forced displacement continue to face psychological and spiritual trauma and barriers.