By: ENEJI, Simon Ushie.
Dr. Janet Ekpenyong, Director General of Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency (CRSPHCDA), Conferred as Mental Health Ambassador.
Over 50 million Nigerians are said to be suffering from various degrees of Mental Health illnesses with only a fraction of about 10% of the affected individuals having full access to medical facilities and care due to complacency of admission into designated facilities.
With an emerging trend of Mental Health issues among pregnant and nursing mothers suffering post partum stress , there is need to incorporate mental health regiments as part of services enjoyed by women in Primary Healthcare Centres during antenatal services to avoid complications in the nearest future , not also forgetting the increasing figures of substance abuse by young adults in secondary and tertiary places of learning and other mental health problems such as depression.
Part of these were the motivation which led a team of medical experts from the Federal Neuro-psychiatric hospital to pay a courtesy visit to the Director General of the Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Janet Ekpenyong in her office to seek ways of creating a timely and lasting solution.
Led by Dr Edak Okwong of the “Mental Health Prevention and Promotion” unit of the Institution , the body is seeking to collaborate with the Cross River State Government via the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency in raising awareness as well as training health care providers on early detection and basic management of suspected mental health cases and strengthen linkage/referral of cases to secondary facilities.
They said, with most of the population of victims living in rural areas, access to the Neuro-psychiatric hospital could be demanding and as such, creating a flexible platform for preliminary clinical services before situation detoriates.
She praised the Director General for her innovative disposition in the upgrade of Primary Healthcare facilities across the state, with staff discipline a worthy and enviable achievements.
Responding to the team’s visit, Director General of the Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Janet Ekpenyong thanked the team for the visit, describing the collaboration as timely and audacious in checking the declining mental health situations of Cross Riverians.
According to her “Mental Health is a huge challenge in the society today and so much awareness needs to be created, especially with the increasing number of young adults who get involved with substance abuse as well as some strange complications such as depression arising from pregnancy and post patum stress in women and slow development in children.
She said , although the management of these illnesses are beyond the scopes and operations of the Primary Healthcare Centres, early stages of these illnesses could be attended to as well as counseling services provided to clients by health workers who are well trained with desired skills. They’ll also know when and where to refer cases to.
The DG appealed to them to reactivate the mental health clinic in General hospital Calabar and other secondary facilities in the state to serve as hubs for referral cases from primary health centres.
She said She’s hopeful that in the nearest future, selected workers who will be trained will cascade the teachings to other staff as the Primary Healthcare Centres is readily available to provide supportive roles to the Neuro-psychiatric Hospital. She committed to ensuring that mental health awareness is integrated into the PHC services.
At the end of the meeting, both parties agreed to the prioritization of at least one Facility in all 196 wards of Cross River State to manage Mental Health related issues, incorporate Mental Health Education and sensitization to the state Social Mobilization Curriculum, Periodic training of Health workers on the innovation and requirements for managing mental Health patients amongst others.
High points of the meeting was the conferment of the Mental Health Ambassador/Advocate title on the Director General and two of the Directors of the Agency for their Unquantifiable contributions towards mental health education and elimination of related illnesses in the state.
Present at the meeting and other contributions were made by Mrs Joy Chabo, (Director, Disease Control and Immunization), Mrs Sally Enyim(Director, Community and Family Services ), Mrs Unawu Elizabeth.