Dr Abayomi Olajide, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State has stated that discrimination against mentally challenged persons should be discouraged, warning that using stigmatising words on them could make them commit suicide.
According to Punch, Olajide said that passing critical comments on persons suffering from mental illness was totally unacceptable, stressing that such comments were not good for the mind. He explained that apart from exposing them to the risk of suicide, mentally challenged persons who were subject to stigmatization were vulnerable to relapse.
Olajide who is also the Public Relations Officer, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, disclosed this while commemorating the 2021 World Mental Health Day. He advised those who used abusive and derogatory words on mentally challenged persons to stop doing so and reminded them that people develop a mental disorder just as people develop physical illnesses.
“When you stigmatise people with a mental disorder, you make them more vulnerable to relapse and have the illness back. People should stop passing critical comments on them. There is what we call high expressed emotion.” He stated.
He also mentioned that studies show that when a mentally challenged person is exposed to high expressed emotion, such a person can get another illness despite using medication. He described the high expressed emotions as hostility from people and people using comments like “are you mad?” or “you are an idiot” on people with mental challenges.
He stressed that those words were not good for them because they could push them towards suicide.
“This is because they think that everybody in the neighbourhood doesn’t seem to tolerate them. They are in the public, they cannot go out; in the house, there is trouble. At some point, some of them just feel they have come at a crossroads and will take their life.” He explained.
He also stressed that people needed to acknowledge the existence of mental disorders in society and how vulnerable some people are to them.
“We need to recognise the fact that just as people can develop hypertension, people can also develop a mental disorder. And when it happens, the table can turn around to anybody. Let me give you an example, with the current situation in the country, the act of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, studies have shown that in societies where these kinds of things thrive, the prevalence of mental disorders could even double.” He explained.
He stated that the prevalence of mental disorders in Nigeria was about 30% and noted that with factors such as terrorism, the COVID-19 pandemic, kidnapping, famine, escalating prices of commodities, people living in fear, and being pushed into poverty, the prevalence would be higher.
The psychiatrist counselled, “We all need to know that anybody can develop mental illness. We need to support people that live with a mental disorder. Stigma worsens the outcome of mental disorder.” He urged that employment be given to mentally challenged persons particularly those ones that have been treated and are stable.