Asides from the obvious challenges posed by the inadequate number of practitioners and mental health clinics available, and the very poor budgetary allocations (only around 3.3 percent of the national health budget is said to go to mental health), the socio-economic hardship and ever-increasing inflation faced by many Nigerians has increased the mental health burden above tolerable levels in Nigeria. While facts like these can almost seem repetitive, and ironically depressing in themselves, we cannot afford to stop shining a light on mental health. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), 20 to 30 percent of Nigerians suffer from some form of mental illness, while the country ranks 15th in the world for suicides.
The neglect of mental healthcare in Nigeria is clear, and nothing proves it more than the Government’s refusal to review the laws governing its management for more than five decades. The existing law in the country, known as the Regional Lunacy Law, was enacted in 1958, and the title alone tells us everything we need to know about how mental health is still viewed. The language surrounding mental health sees words like “crazy”, “mad” and “lunatic” used flippantly, and while we’ve learned a lot in the last few years, thanks to social media and a few important organizations that prioritize mental well-being, there’s still so much more we can do to evolve as a society.
World Mental Health Day
First observed on 10 October 1992 by a group of experts under the umbrella of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), the commemoration has gained global relevance and recognition as World Health Organisation (WHO) has consistently partnered with WFMH and other partners to raise awareness and education around issues of mental health, with this year’s theme being dubbed as; “Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority”.
This year, WHO has launched a campaign (aimed at reaching 10 million people) to raise awareness and spur action for suicide prevention in the African region, which according to it, has the world’s highest rates of death by suicide.
Despite the mental health crisis that is looming, Nigerians are not entirely without hope, as there are a number of organizations working to improve mental health in Nigeria and offer a safe space for anyone who needs assistance. We’ve shared a few of them below:
Psychebabble Foundation is a youth-led nonprofit organization in Nigeria, dedicated to raising awareness, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, encouraging young people to seek treatment if needed, and connecting service users to proper mental health care.
Contact: (+234) 8154106520; (+234) 9011644993
Launched in June 2016, this Lagos-based nonprofit focuses on creating awareness of mental health and illnesses as well as helping its clients connect to mental health professionals. MANI has a suicide/distress hotline and is planning on launching a mobile app to connect mental health professionals to people in need of help. The organization promotes its advocacy campaigns online using channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and its website to draw attention to different mental health illnesses or other related topics each month.
This organization is committed to giving mental health a voice in Nigeria, and since its inception in April 2016, has launched one of the first 24-hour toll-free mental health lines and chat services. The organization also founded and curates Safe Place – a support group where women in Nigeria can meet, discuss mental health issues and get the help they need. In partnership with Airtel Nigeria, they have grown and founded Safe Place Nigeria – a walk-in clinic where young people can seek mental health care.
Launched in 2012 in Lagos, LPM carries out advocacy and awareness campaigns for the youth in Nigeria. The organization also founded and curates UMBRELLA, a men’s-only support group that meets monthly, with a focus on substance abuse as well. LPM also ran the #SAVE campaign in 2017 which encouraged creatives to embrace photography, music, art, and fashion to raise awareness of mental health in Nigeria.
Contact: +234 903 728 8871
A budding organization centered around providing mental health services to young men while fostering a sense of community and the drive to speak up without shame. The initiative was set up to help challenge outdated narratives surrounding masculinity and what it means to be a strong man.
Mental Health for Youth Initiative is a youth-focused NGO, founded to increase awareness of mental health, provide intervention services for those in need of professional help, and advocate for better mental health policies in Nigeria.
Contact: +234 905 121 8830
This nonprofit, nongovernmental organization is doing important work by providing psychological and psychosocial support to victims of the North-East Insurgency. In order to reach their target of reaching as many people as possible, the foundation began a Counseling on Wheels program which has counselors use motorcycles or motor tricycles to take counseling services to people’s doorsteps. Besides providing mental health support to individuals, the Neem Foundation also offers training in counseling, trauma care, and child-centered therapy.
Contact: (+234) 809 454 6808
Nigerian Suicide Prevention Initiative:
Hotlines: + 234 806 210 6493; + 234 809 210 6493