In Nigeria mental health care is very neglected. As in other sub-Saharan countries, less than 1% percent of total health budget is allocated to mental health2. Government mental health care is provided through the 8 special mental health hospitals located in big cities in the six geopolitical zones of the country, and a similar number of university teaching hospitals. This is grossly inadequate compared to national population of over 180 million people with over 20 million mentally ill people. There is also strong stigma and human rights abuse of mentally ill people in Nigeria, including their right to health1. This lack of mental health resources somewhat explains why there are so many people with mental illness in Nigeria who roam the streets without shelter, food, mental health care and always suffer other forms of human right abuse.
Rising to this urgent need, the rehabilitation program was set up to provide mental health care to homeless mentally ill people without any familial or social support within the African community setting. This has brought hope to some families with limited options for seeking mental health treatment would often abandon their relative or take them to prayer house where there is a risk of suffering human rights abuses and limited chances of recovery.
The programme tries to fill the gap in Nigerian mental health care through a community mental health service which provides local services to people with mental illness through 73 community mental health clinics located within four states of South East Nigeria. The clinics continue to provide services to those rehabilitated at the programme centre who have been discharged and reintegrated with their families. Several awareness projects are also carried out to educate community members on mental health issues and protecting the human rights of people with mental illness. The programme recently began a Free Mobile Community Mental Health Care and Awareness Project targeting economically disadvantaged rural dwellers that have mental health disorders but are unable to access mental health care. This helps to identify people who have mental health disorders in remote rural communities for mental health treatment as well as reduce the level of mental health stigma in the community.
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