Psychiatrists have identified stigma, shame, discrimination and lack of access to care as factors militating against successful treatment of patients with mental disorder.

They spoke on Saturday in Akure at the commemoration of the 2015 World Mental Health Day with the theme: “Dignity in Mental Health.’’

Dr Sajo Sunday, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chief Medical Director of Neuropsychiatric Specialist Hospital, Akure, said these factors prevent individuals in all countries from seeking treatment on timely basis.

Decrying the negative effects of stigma and discrimination on psychiatric patients, Sunday stressed the need for dignity in mental health services and change in public perception.
“Dignity is every individual’s birthright. But too often, people with mental health challenges have had their dignity taken away by stigma, discrimination and forceful or negative treatment.

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“In addition, they are subject to emotional, physical and sexual abuse in mental health facilities as well as in the community.

“Poor quality of care due to a lack of qualified mental health professionals and dilapidated mental health facilities can also lead to further violations,” he said.

He said that the essence of the gathering was to fashion out ways to address these challenges and ensure that the dignity of people with mental health and psychosocial disability was preserved.

According to the CMD, respect for dignity represents an essential component of care and can produce major improvement in attitude toward people who are experiencing mental health challenges.

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Mr Gbiri Adeola, the Chairman of Association of Psychiatric Nurses of Nigeria (APNON), Ondo State Chapter, urged health workers to respect the individual identity of patients and maintain good interpersonal relationship with them.

Adeola also called for public awareness to enlighten the community, government and non-governmental organisations on the best way to relate with, and support people with mental health problems.

The APNON chairman condemned the practice of flogging, chaining and forcing psychiatric patients to undergo fasting of any kind by religious leaders under the guise of casting demons out of them.

“Religious leaders should note that psychiatric patients are not animals and they should be respected by stopping all inhuman treatments being meted out to them.

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“Restraint which is fabric designed should be used in a respectful way and compassionate manner with a stipulated time lag, and not the use of chains, to protect their dignity.

“Since all of us are prone to having mental health problems, we should be proactive in safeguarding the well-being and dignity of individuals already down with the challenge.

“Failure to do this can lead to self stigma, low confidence, low self esteem, withdrawal and social isolation which may threaten the security and integrity of the nation,” Adeola said.(NAN)