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Military personnel need more awareness on mental health – Minister

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MINISTER of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has urged the military to increase awareness of mental health among its personnel, noting that this will help to address the impact of post-trauma and stress disorder among troops.

  Ehanire made the call at the opening of Mental Health Resilience and Wellness Course 2 (MHRWC2) of the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) on Monday in Abuja.

  The minister was represented by the National Coordinator of the National Mental Health Programme of the ministry, Dr. Tunde Ojo.

  He said that the effort should include programmes that would address the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, saying it was one of the greatest barriers to accessing care.

  The minister also stressed the need to create a conducive working environment including one that promotes mental wellbeing and proactively addresses the mental health needs of officers and men when identified.

  “Unfortunately, there is a high tendency to give priority to the physical health needs ahead of mental health which should be looked into.

  “I am aware there is a dearth of mental health professionals in the country, and more so in the military, as there are less than five psychiatrists in the entire military formation in the country.

  “Maybe the statistics is much better for others like clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, and medical social workers.

  “I want to encourage you to invest more in this area through recruitment and in-service training.”

  According to him, there should be a multidisciplinary team to reflect the holistic approach to mental health and not just the biomedical approach.

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  “The federal ministry of health is available to give you technical support in achieving any of these,” he said.

  Ehanire said that the ministry was leading the initiative for the improvement of mental health care services in Nigeria by developing a National Mental Health Bill 2020, for an Act to repeal the Lunacy Act of 1958.

  This, he said, was passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly in 2021, and awaiting assent by President Muhammadu Buhari.

  He said that proactive measures had been put in place with the establishment of the National Mental Health Programme in March, pending the conclusion of the legislative processes on the bill.

  Ehanire said the government had also engaged a consultant psychiatrist to coordinate the national response to the rising burden of mental health, neurological, and substance use disorders in the country.

  According to him, the national mental policy is in the process of being reviewed to reflect current realities and global best practices.

  He commended the centre for designing the training being facilitated by the Department of Army Transformation and Innovation, Peace Building Consult, and other stakeholders.

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