Written by Williams ABAH

Nigerians links mental disorder to supernatural causes-Study

Precise statistics are hardly available, a new survey conducted recently in Nigeria, has suggested that it could take a dramatic shift for Nigerians to start linking mental disorders to natural causes.

The survey conducted by Africa Polling Institute in collaboration with EpiAFRIC, found that there is still widespread belief linking mental disorders to supernatural causes including witchcraft, demonic possession, and even “punishment from gods.”

Nigerians identified “possession by an evil spirit” as one among three major causes of mental disorders, the study released revealed.

Other identified causes are drug abuse and sickness of the mind. The survey revealed that of over 5,000 adults interviewed last September in all senatorial districts and states across the country, including the federal capital, 55 per cent of respondents in rural areas view mental health disease as possession by evil spirits.

Some of the respondent said it is a Punishment from God for those who committed evils.

More findings showed that women are more likely to view mental disorder as a punishment from God than men.

A psychiatrist, Aremu Saad, said over 20 per cent of Nigerians suffer from different forms of mental illness, because of misconceptions and links to supernatural causes, many sufferers turn to traditional healers, reputable for applying mundane methods such as exorcisms – beating, roping, and chaining.

Aremu said treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional.

According to the World Health Organisation WHO, it said that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

It added that around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions. According to WHO poor perception, Poor knowledge of mental illness, its causes and characteristics among Nigerians has been a major challenges to improving mental health in the country.

The assessment also revealed that most Nigerians are aware of mental health diseases but mostly “recognise and connect with its overt signs much more than covert signs”.

The study revealed that 70 percent of respondents believe mental health disease is, “when someone starts running around naked”

In the study, experts said this misconception is fueling a culture of stigma and discrimination which has allows “some silent but debilitating mental disorders such as depression to flourish”.

According to them, depression is a common mental disorder and one of the main causes of disability worldwide, yet its symptoms are barely noticed unlike the typical lunatic in tattered rags by the roadside.


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