• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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‘How Retreat Healthcare is tackling the scourge of mental disorders’

‘How Retreat Healthcare is tackling the scourge of mental disorders’

Olufemi Oluwatayo, chief executive officer and co-founder, The Retreat Healthcare, the first purpose-built private psychiatric hospital in Nigeria, holds Masters Degree in Psychiatry from the University of Manchester, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrist and also a Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Milton Park Hospital, United Kingdom. Oluwatayo, a former Mental Health Adviser to Lagos State spoke to BusinessDay’s OBOKOH ANTHONIA on several issues on access to the right mental healthcare and psychological effect, stigma and the need for government to support. Excerpts:

What is retreat healthcare all about and where is it located?

The Retreat healthcare is quite different because we are the first purpose-built private psychiatric hospital in Nigeria. Also, we rely mainly on solar energy power which means we have no business with a generator, therefore no noise. We also use what we called electronic patient record and very confidential.

We practice according to international standard because the majority of our staffs have many years of overseas experience which they are replicating here in Nigeria, and our staffs are highly trained and they respond to a patient respectively. We are also not medication focus but therapeutically, which means we rely on a lot of therapy works not just medication.

We are located in Ikorodu because we want a quiet location away from the busy and noisy area of Lagos city, a place that will serve as a retreat from the city stress. So we can put the structure on a full hectare of land where we can position facilities that can aid quick recovery.

What motivated your desire to focus on the area of mental health when you set up The Retreat?

The Retreat came up because of my interest and love for the speciality. My colleague and I came together and set it up as a way of giving back to the society and the whole idea was to complement what government is doing, just trying to add value to the system. So we thought that it will be a good idea to have a mental hospital, purposely built with adequate facilities

Working as a mental health counsellor requires patience, compassion and advanced communication skill, how do you cope?

Working in this field indeed requires patience, skill and compassion. That is why there is a need to have to the right personality to work in the profession, someone with passion, who had gone through lots of training, have relevant continuous professional development and peer support and supervision.

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Can you please explain the services you render here?

We focus on three areas: in-patients services, out-patient services and screening for stress, memory impairment among others. We have various screen service. And occasionally we go out to see patients in their homes.

How affordable are your services?

Our services are affordable, even though it is a little bit higher than the government-owned hospital charges, but we have facilities that will justify our charges.

Our technology is an international standard. We have a range of beds, open wards, private rooms, executive flats, patients family can come and stay with them if they want.

We do recognize that there is going to be some people who will not be able to afford our price, so we are setting up what we called Samaritan Fund, where people can get access to money for their health care and the money is been managed by a credible organisation where individuals or cooperate organisations can also support people to access care.

Kindly give a brief insight on mental disorder and depression as it is becoming more prevalent in Nigeria?

Common mental disorders such as Depression, Anxiety, Adjustment Disorders and Drug Abuse are very common in Nigeria. They are usually caused by life stresses that are prevalent in Nigeria such as financial worries, insecurity, lack of rest, noise pollution, poor sleep etc. These are in addition to the well-recognized adverse life events such as relationship breakdowns, job losses and family disputes. So any situation that affects our psychological equilibrium can push us over the edge and lead to a mental breakdown. That is why it is important to know how to cope with these stressful situations.

People you see on the street are the one at the very extreme end of mental disorder, and they are a very tiny minority of people with mental disorder, most people with disorder walk around normally because there are varieties of mental disorder such as depression, eaten disorder, obsession among others. It is temporary thing that people can get out of it, that is why it is called adjustment disorder.

By the time you see somebody on the street he or she have missed so many opportunities and because they are on the street does not mean they cannot be treated. And once they brought them here, they also can be treated.

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What is your view on mental health and its implication for society?

Every society needs to address its mental health needs. A health society has to be mentally sound and productive. Overall mental wellbeing of the society is the responsibility of the government who ensures that its citizens have adequate security and have a reasonable quality of life and are not impoverished. The government also takes the lead in providing mental health services spanning primary, secondary and tertiary cares. The government then provides an enabling environment including policies and regulatory frameworks for private providers such as The Retreat and charity organisations to come and complement its efforts.

Stigmatization is an issue with a mental disorder, how can we overcome it?

Stigmatization is a very big issue all over the world because people still find it difficult to identify with people with a mental health disorder. What we are doing is to put in place welcoming and standard facilities for people with mental health which means that quality service that is been render to physical health can be done for mental health.

People should not look down on them, it can happen to anybody, the way people can develop diabetics, cancer, hypertension, mental illness can as well happen to anybody it is not because they are cursed. People need to understand that it is a slow process but when a patient gets better, they recover completely.

How can access to mental healthcare be improved in Nigeria health sector?

We all need to do more to raise awareness on the scourge of mental disorders and to encourage people to access services rather than patronizing charlatans and spiritual healers. When I say all, I mean relevant government agencies, mental health professionals like myself, the media, celebrities and religious and opinion leaders. We must all join hand and do more as stigma remains a big issue and is the most important single barrier to access to services.

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What kinds of investments are needed to boost mental healthcare in Nigeria?

All over the world, private and charity and not-for-profit organisations complement government efforts as no government can do everything by itself. We need people and organisations including foreign ones to invest in mental health services in Nigeria. The challenges are massive but they are not impossible to overcome.

What is your advice for managing and preventing mental health challenges?

The mental breakdown is not the end of the world. It could be a breakthrough so that someone can learn. But to prevent you from having a mental health disorder is to realise that a healthy body is a healthy mind. If you keep your body healthy, your mind will function better therefore, you need to comply with a healthy lifestyle such as abstaining from smoking if you want to drink it must be in moderation, engage in exercise, eat a balanced diet.

Most importantly people need to sleep, a lot of Nigeria do not sleep, eight to six hours every night and it has to be structured in such a way that there will be consistency. People need to take time out of work and rest. Most importantly if you notice anything do not let it drag for too long, seek medical help.