BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

COVID-19: FG launches 112 helpline to tackle mental health in Nigeria

...as world may lose $16trn by 2030

The Federal Government has launched the 112 Mental Helpline under the Mind Wheel Project to provide nationwide free tele-counseling services to address the adverse and worsening psychological effects of the COVlD-19 pandemic on infected and affected persons in Nigeria.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every four Nigerians, comprising about 50 million people are suffering from one form of mental illness or the other and COVID-19 alone increased mental health concerns, particularly fear, worry, anxiety and depression.

Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, George Akume while launching the Mind Wheel Project in Abuja on Tuesday, said it was the collaborative effort of his ministry, that of communication and digital economy and Sunshine Series Mind Wellness Ltd, an Abuja based mental health organisation founded by Aisha Bubah to tackle the increasing mental health challenges of Nigerians.

Akume disclosed that WHO has also welcomed the initiative and ready to support the objectives of the Mind Wheel Project in providing free tele-counseling services to Nigerians infected and affected by COVlD-19 while the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy has provided toll-free lines for the services.

He expressed hope that the endeavor will have a meaningful and sustainable impact on vulnerable Nigerian communities, as well as help, provide holistic recovery on the infected and affected population in the pre and post-COVID-19 pandemic eras.

The former Benue State governor said in order to expand the reach of the Mind Wheel tele-mental health led initiative, his ministry is supporting the project through the National Lottery Trust Fund by launching a national toll-free helpline which will be the first of its kind in the country.

“The Sunshine Series-Mind Wellness is providing specific solutions to mental health concerns of Nigerians, most especially through the organisation’s ongoing Mind Wheel Project, which offers free counseling and psychosocial support to persons struggling with their mental health as a result of the pandemic and its challenges are most desirable.

“As at date, this project has reached over 5,000 Nigerians, directly and indirectly through counseling sessions, capacity building, online webinars and psycho-educational materials.

Earlier, founder of the project and lead psychologist, Bubah said it is estimated that by 2030, the world could lose up to $16 trillion as a result of mental health crisis while $1 trillion is presently lost in productivity, due to common mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

She stated that her organization in the past year reached out to over 200 persons with counselling services, trained over 300 persons on mental health, trained lay counsellors and psychological first aiders and collaborated with various organisations like the US Embassy in Abuja to host a webinar on the impact of COVlD-19 on mental health.

“We have offered employee assistance programmes to organizations towards securing employee wellbeing, enhancing productivity and achieving a healthy work-life balance. We have worked with lDPs to enhance their mental health and build their resilience.

“We are currently running a research to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of Nigerians, to guide designing evidence based approaches to curbing the mental health crisis brought about by the pandemic”, the founder said.

Chairman, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Muhammad Buba Marwa noted that COVID-19 pandemic has brought about social and economic hardship on individuals, families and the society at large, through loss of jobs, and loss of loved ones which are associated with increased depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem, which may lead to higher rates of substance disorder and suicide.

Represented by Precious Oyutu , a chief superintendent of Nacrotics of NDLEA, Marwa said: “This Mental Health Helpline initiative is a laudable one as this is the first of its kind in Nigeria. There is no doubt that in this COVID-19 era, this intervention will be very useful for individuals experiencing mental health issues whether as a result of substance use or not”.

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