A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Kafaya Ogunsola, on Thursday said that poverty could significantly increase the risk of people developing mental illness.
Ogunsola, who runs an online Mental Health Advocacy and Counselling, Empathyspace.ng, said that poverty did not directly cause mental
ill-health. “It can significantly increase the risk of developing one, vis-a-vis the untold hardships, traumatic experiences and gross disadvantages that comes with being poor.
“Also, bearing in mind that poverty can lead to long term emotional distres resulting from numerous socio-economic challenges ranging from hunger and insecurity to being destitute.
“The role of poverty in increasing vulnerability to mental illness can be explained through the pathways of poor nutrition, poor living conditions, including noise and air pollution and overcrowding,” she said.
The consultant noted that poverty could directly impact on the quality of life of persons already living with a mental illness.
According to her, poverty can increase the lifetime relapse episodes of such persons due to their inability to adhere to medication use, secondary to financial handicap, affect the treatment outcome and prognosis in such an individual.
Kafaya explained that poor people were exposed to a certain level of stigma and discrimination every day of their lives.
According to her, such people are left with menial jobs which tend to be high-risk taking, energy expending, poor remuneration, with members
of the society in a manner of speaking and ignorant of their hardships.
She said: “Thus, poverty leaves the self-esteem and the confidence level of the poor man and woman repeatedly bruised and battered, which
can predispose them to mental disorders such depression, anxiety, psychoses, drugs and alcohol abuse.
The psychiatrist said that addressing the issue highlighted above would require private and public partnerships directed at reducing the spate of unemployment, with focus on Nigerians living below poverty lines.
“Of utmost urgency is the need to pass the Nigerian mental health bill into law which will enforce policies that favour and ensure inclusion
at all levels of Nigerians with mental health challenges and disabilities in tandem with the World Health Organisation stipulations.”