Written by Scholastica JOSEPH

Health workers tasked on new developments in mental health

An expert on mental health, Dr. Terver Chieshe, has called on all health workers across the country to have knowledge in mental health to enable them identify, diagnose and treat mental illness among their patients.

Chieshe urged health workers not to be afraid of mental illness but to study the development in mental health which have made the field more humane, practically useful and more effective in relieving the symptoms of the mentally ill and reintegrating them into the social and economic life of the communities.

Dr Chieshe is a Clinical Officer with the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Programme, CCMHP, a programme supported by the Australian Government through the Christoffel Blinden Mission, CBM.

Speaking to The Abuja Inquirer in his office in Makurdi, last week, Chieshe said the call has become necessary because he realized that millions of people are suffering from mental illness but majority of them are neither diagnosed nor treated.

"In fact, when they come to the hospital, they are not identified because of the lack of knowledge of health workers. They keep treating people for malaria, typhoid, peptic ulcer and the likes when the problems are not physical but psychological."

"But I don't completely blame the health workers because it takes guts for anyone to decide on a career in mental health here in Nigeria and most of the middle and low income countries most especially when there are so many other green fields of medicine beckoning on the young doctors."

Chieshe lamented that the few who choose to work in mental health are plagued with stigma from their colleagues, families and society in general.

He also observed that they are being over crowded with patients with no residents nor junior doctors to support them. "One can appreciate their own stress as they struggle to cope with their own personal problems and the problems of their clients and care givers.

He therefore insisted that all health workers must acquire knowledge in mental health arguing that when knowledge is limited, as is the case in most circumstances today, the health worker is unable to make a clear cut diagnosis and that makes him or her unsure of what medication to give and often times, the health worker tends to believe that drugs are the in-thing for treatment.

"This way they suffer the patients greatly and pay little attention to the real needs ofthe patients.

He explained that when the health worker know more about mental health, his ability to diagnose increases and he also learns that therapy is not only medicine but also includes talking therapy, psycho education of the patient and caregivers, occupational therapy, family therapy among others which helps to rehabilitate the clients as medications are being taken.

He also called on religious and traditional healers need to learn more about mental illness in the contemporary society lamenting that their methods of healing, often times, constitute an abuse of the human rights of the individual they claim to be treating.

"When they chain the patients, flog the patients, torture the patients in various ways, forcing them to fast, all these are crimes against the individual or their human rights.

He also advised that education in schools, from primary, secondary to tertiary level should include facts about mental health just as he advocated for government involvement and support.


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