By Chika Onyesi
The World Health Organisation has called for home-grown, grassroots innovative solutions that could change the lives of thousands of persons daily challenged by mental health illness.
The global health body made the call as Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the World Mental Health Day.
The mental health day created to provide opportunity for action, is also a reminder for nations to develop strategies to improve mental health status of citizens and reduce incidents of suicide.
Celebrated every 10th of October, this year’s commemoration is focused on suicide prevention.
Globally, every 40 seconds, a life is lost to suicide and almost four out of five suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries, the WHO estimates.
In a remark to mark the day the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said the unavailability of accurate data on mental illness in Africa has slowed efforts to control the illness.
‘‘In the African Region data are scarce and stigma is significant around suicide, but we know this is an important public health problem. Where data is available such as Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Lesotho, rates have been shown to be higher than 20 suicides per 100 000 people each year’’.
This is why the world health body wants individual governments to facilitate multi-sectoral collaborations, including limiting access to pesticides, firearms and certain medications and strengthen policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol as a means of checking suicides.
Training of non-specialized workers to assess and manage suicidal behaviour, identify, treat and care for people with mental health illness are some of the solutions the WHO wants countries to adopt.
They want the health workers to identify substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress, and improve follow-up care for people who have attempted suicide.
‘‘The education sector can implement school-based interventions to offer mental health support for adolescents; researchers can conduct qualitative studies to identify culturally relevant risk factors and how they apply in different contexts says Dr. Matshidiso .