The issue of mental health has over the years attracted little attention in the country with mental health victims stigmatised and neglected by families believing that their problem is beyond remedy.
As World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates reveal that mental disorders account for 13 percent of global burden of disease, growing concerns over low awareness of schizophrenia disorder, a mental illness which affects the normal functioning of the brain, in Nigeria have emerged.
With incidence of schizophrenia disorder put at one in 100 people and individuals between the ages of 15 to 35 considered as those with the highest risk of developing this disorder, experts have called for increased awareness in order to enable sufferers get immediate and increase support for all those affected by the disorder.
Speaking with BusinessDay during Cutler Ogilvy PR Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, Deji Morenikeji, medical director, said that the disorder is a public health problem which not only affect personal health and hygiene but also relations with family/work and the community at large.
With symptoms of schizophrenia varying depending on the individual, Morenikeji said symptoms include patient’s ability to concentrate, remember things, plan ahead, and ability to organise himself or herself are affected, delusions, hallucinations, thought disorder, lack of motivation, poor expression of emotions, social withdrawal.
“Lack of energy, interest, and motivation are factors that alert friends and family to the presence of the disorder. A family history of psychosis and certain personality disorders are associated with an increased risk of vulnerability to schizophrenia. Evidence does suggest that genetic and environmental factors generally act together to bring about schizophrenia.
“Evidence indicated that the diagnosis of schizophrenia has an inherited element, but it is also significantly influenced by environmental triggers. Other things that could trigger schizophrenia include chemical imbalance in the brain and use of drugs such as cannabis and LSD which can cause schizophrenia relapses,” Morenikeji explained.
The medical director noted that the most effective treatment option for schizophrenia is usually a combination of medication, psychological counselling, and self-help resources with anti-psychosis drugs said to have transformed schizophrenia treatment.
“The primary schizophrenia treatment is medication; sadly compliance is a major problem. People with schizophrenia often go off their medication for long periods during their lives, at huge personal costs to themselves and often to those around them as well. Majority of patients go off their medication within the first year of treatment. Successful schizophrenia treatment needs to consist of a life-long regimen of both drug and psychosocial, support therapies.
“The medication can help control the patient’s hallucinations and delusions, but it cannot help them learn to communicate with others, get a job, and thrive in society. Although a significant number of people with schizophrenia live in poverty, this does not have to be the case,” the medical director added.
Medical reports show that a person with schizophrenia who complies with the treatment regimen long-term will be able to lead a happy and productive life.Laura Oloyede, chief operating officer, Cutler Ogilvy PR, noted that in Nigeria today, one major challenge as regards well-being is the low level of awareness that bedevils the Nigerian populace on the state of their health.
With the low level of awareness posing a major threat to increased disease burden, Oloyede stated that the higher the level of ignorance about an illness, the higher the risk it poses for individuals and the community at large especially when such illnesses can be treated or prevented as the case may arise.
“As our corporate responsibility programme, Cutler has taken up the cause of promoting the general well-being of Nigerians especially in the area of managing physical and mental health. The start-off campaign is with focus on Schizophrenia.