Dr Abayomi Olajide, a Consultant psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State, has cautioned against using abusive, derogatory words on mentally-ill patients.
According to him, this will make them more vulnerable to relapse and worsen other expected progressive outcomes.
He cautioned against passing critical comments on persons with mental illness, describing it as totally unacceptable, and stressing that it should be discouraged.
He said mental illness is more common than many people can imagine, but the challenge is that most cases are not presented for medical attention.
Prof. Taiwo Obindo, the President of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, also said that more than 60 million Nigerians are suffering from mental illnesses.
He expressed concern that mental illness is still perceived as a spiritual problem, affliction, among others and treated as such in Nigeria.
He said people with mental illnesses need to present early for treatment.
“Passing critical comments on persons suffering mental illness is not good for the mind.
“When you stigmatise people with mental disorders, you make them more vulnerable to relapse and have the illness back.
“Those using abusive and derogatory words on mentally challenged persons should desist from the act.
“Just as people develop physical illness, they could also develop mental disorders.
“People should stop passing critical comments on them. There is what we call high-expressed emotion,” he said.
According to Prof. Obindo, people need to know that mental disorder exists in all society and the vulnerability or predisposition is indeterminable
“Research has shown that wherever a mentally challenged person is being exposed to highly expressed emotion, the person can come down with another illness despite using medication.
“And what do we call high expressed emotion– hostility from people, passing critical comments like ‘you are mad, you are crazy, you are an idiot’ are not good for the mind.
“Those words can actually worsen the outcome of mental illness.
“When you hear people who have mental illness committing suicide, these are some of the things responsible.
“This is because they think that everybody in the neighbourhood doesn’t seem to tolerate them. They are in the public, they cannot go out; in the house, there is trouble,” he added.
The psychiatrist pointed out that just as people can develop hypertension, people can also develop mental disorders.
“And when it happens, the table can turn to anybody. Let me give you an example, with the current situation in the country, the act of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism, studies have shown that in societies where these kinds of things thrive, the prevalence of mental disorders could even double.
“Currently, we put the prevalence of mental disorders in this country at about 30 per cent.
“We all need to know that anybody can develop mental illness.
“We need to support people that live with mental disorders. Stigma worsens the outcome of mental disorder”, the mental health expert said.
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