(Image credit: The Guardian Nigeria news, 2018)

The issue of mental health is still foreign to the ears of most Nigerian citizens. In most parts of the country, there is a lack of understanding of mental health and its importance. Mental health is the state of your being, which affects your ability to function wholly and be productive. World Health Organization describes mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with everyday stresses of life, can work productively, and contribute to his or her community (WHO, 2019). Although Nigeria has recently been picking up on the importance of taking care of our mental health with a lot of buzz on social media, I feel like we still have a long way to go. Educating the citizens and instilling mindfulness in people to filter their words and actions not to be a reason for someone’s mental health deteriorating still has to happen. 

The health care system of Nigeria has been failing for a long time. It doesn’t seem to be promising any progress, with the failing and crumbling (literally) infrastructures, to the lack of equipment, and to the poor working conditions that health workers have to deal with; it is hard not to reconsider the effects of these conditions to the mental state of an average Nigerian citizen who has to receive primary health care service from the failing system.

In this post, we will be exploring three ways that the Nigerian health care system is adding to the deterioration of its citizens’ mental well-being. 

Health Workers

The average Nigerian citizen has visited a health clinic or hospital at least once in their life, and it is typically not the best experience. It wouldn’t be fair to neglect that hospitals aren’t the first option for visiting, hence why most countries would like to make it as conducive and welcoming as possible. Sadly, our beloved country does not make the list of these thoughtful nations. Most experiences I have heard from people of their visits in hospital have been sad and borderline terrifying, to say the least, from doctors’ carelessness in handling cases to the poor attitude of nurses. Yea, the hospital is undoubtedly way down the list of places anyone would want to visit. However, as I’ve continued to hear similar yet different terrifying stories of grizzly bear doctors and witches that disguise themselves as nurses, I can’t help but imagine why this happens and the effect this has had on the patient, aka storyteller. The healthcare system that Nigerian health workers find themselves in makes it hard to blame them for these reoccurring attitudes and carelessness issues. Having to perform surgery without electricity, to nurses receiving paychecks almost 80% less than what they would get if they were working in western countries  (Nurses Salary in Nigeria (2021): How Much Are They paid?, n.d.)and having to work extra hours, I can guarantee that they would be in a foul mood when attending to patients. However, this does not make the attitude right. These poor working conditions, I have noticed tell on our health care providers and takes a toll on their mental health as a study that was conducted in a teaching hospital in Enugu, Nigeria, showed that 70% of the nurses suffer from burn out every day and eventually are forced to resign as they can’t cope with the pressure that comes with the poor working conditions. The mental health of both health care providers and receivers is clearly at stake in this situation, and the problem is none other than the failing healthcare system, which continues to depreciate as the day passes. At the rate of brain drain happening in the country, it will come as no surprise that in the next five years, Nigeria’s health workers would have depreciated by a lot more as it owns 25% of the global disease and has only 3% of the workforce (Misau, Bakari and Al-Sadat, 2010). A lot of academic articles have also addressed these concerns by highlighting that the magnitude of Africans’ migration from developing and under-developed countries to industrialized or developed nations propounds a growing urgency for action as the consequence of these migrations threatens to hinder the overall development of the continent (Fagite, 2018).

Health Facilities

Health facilities have been a significant problem in achieving basic primary health care in Nigeria. Health facilities include infrastructure, equipment, and other tools that are essential in delivering effective healthcare. The issue of healthcare facilities has led to the loss of lives that the Government could have easily saved had they made the development of health facilities a priority. Current health statistics in Nigeria point to the deteriorating capacity of the health system, with an estimated infant mortality rate at 69/1000 live births; under-five mortality rate at 109/1000 live births; maternal mortality ratio at 814/100000 live births; average life expectancy for men and women at 53 and 56 years, respectively; and relative probability of dying between 15 and 60 years estimated at 341 per 1000 population (Misau, Bakari and Al-Sadat, 2010). These statistics are pretty alarming and troubling and intensity at which the Government ignores these problems. The situation of seeing a loved one lose their life over an appendix surgery gone wrong or a cesarian section that could not be completed because all equipment needed was not available will definitely take a toll on anyone. Due to the failing health system, many Nigerians have fallen into self-medication, which is quite dangerous to our mental health and all other areas of our well-being. Thoughts about the health facilities and having a family member being treated there takes a toll on us, causing anxiety and other mental health issues. 

 Mental Health care

Mental health care, or should I say the lack of mental healthcare in Nigeria, is alarming. Mental health is being neglected in the country, and the result of that is a large number of people walking around with unhealed trauma and anxiety. With over 250 million people, the nation has less than 300 psychiatrists, mostly in private practice and not affordable to the average Nigerian. Another sad finding is the lack of education of primary healthcare workers on matters concerning mental health. Statistics also show that up to 80%of the citizens in need of mental healthcare cannot access it due to its lack of availability. There is also the problem of slow reception and poor attitudes towards mental health triggered mainly by religious or cultural beliefs, Sadly the saying that Nigeria has more churches than schools and hospitals is very true. 

Nigeria currently faces a global human rights emergency in mental health (Ugochukwu et al., 2020). The time is now for the Government to reform policies that govern all aspects of the healthcare system, especially mental health care. These need to be done in different forms as our nation still has a long way to go in mental healthcare. Funding for the healthcare system, particularly mental healthcare, should be prioritized by the Government and the citizens’ education on mental health and well-being; this could be done by sensitizing groups through movies as this would be easier using our Nollywood industry. It is also necessary to work with religious leaders to educate on the importance of mental health and the dangers that exist in ignoring one’s mental health. Integration of mental health into primary health care will also help push the mental healthcare field forward and increase its accessibility. With the world’s state, mental health has never been as crucial as it is now. I believe that at this point, everyone needs a therapist whether you think you are going through something or not. If the Government decides to take these steps in improving the country’s health system, it won’t be long before at least a good percentage of the citizens will have mental healthcare accessible to them.

So, leaving you with a pondering question, do you think everyone needs a therapist ( that includes the therapists themselves, lol) let me hear your answer below.  


58 years of poor health services, outcomes | The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. (2018, October 4). The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News. https://guardian.ng/features/science/58-years-of-poor-health-services-outcomes/

Fagite, D. D. (2018). Nigerian Nurses on the Run: Increasing the Diaspora and Decreasing Concentration. Journal of Pan-African Studies, 12(2), 108–120. https://jpanafrican.org/docs/vol12no2/Ola-12.2-9-Fagite.pdf

Misau, Y. A., Al-Sadat, N., & Bakari Gerei, A. (2010). Brain-drain and health care delivery in developing countries. Journal of Public Health in Africa, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.4081/jphia.2010.e6

Nurses Salary in Nigeria (2021): How Much Are They paid? (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2021, from https://nigerianprice.com/nurses-salary-in-nigeria/

Ugochukwu, O., Mbaezue, N., Lawal, S. A., Azubogu, C., Sheikh, T. L., & Vallières, F. (2020). The time is now: reforming Nigeria’s outdated mental health laws. The Lancet Global Health, 8(8), e989–e990. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2214-109x(20)30302-8

WHO. (2019, May). WHO | WHO urges more investments, services for mental health. WHO. https://www.who.int/mental_health/who_urges_investment/en/#:~:text=Mental%20health%20is%20defined%20as