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Red Cross raises alarm over surge in mental health challenges in Nigeria

By Tony Okafor

The Nigeria Red Cross Society has raised an alarm over the increasing surge in mental health cases in the country. It, therefore, urged Nigerians to join hands with the government at all levels to tackle the prevalence, condemning the increase in illicit drugs and substance abuse across the country. The Anambra State chairman of Nigeria Red Cross Society, Prof Peter Katchy, stated this in a chat with journalists in Onitsha, Anambra State.

He said illicit drug dependency among the youth was harming the socioeconomic life of the Nigerian society and threatening the future of the country.

According to the World Health Organization, about 50 million Nigerians are suffering from one sort of mental illness or another. A survey by the Federal Government revealed that over 15 million Nigerians use illicit drugs representing 15% of the country’s population which are between 15 and 64 years.

Katchy explained that the use of illicit drugs by children and young people had lasting adverse effects on their mental and physical development. According to him drug abuse could impact on the brain’s ability to function in the short term as well as prevent proper development later in life which he noted could create various problems for families, communities and the entire society. These could include encouraging indecent dressing, display of psychiatric tendencies and often a disruption of academic and social activities.

He regretted that in addition to illicit drugs, malnutrition occasioned by economic hardship was also compounding mental health issues resulting in anxiety and depression which had continued to disable people especially youths, thereby undermining healthy lifestyles and encouraging social vices.

He urged families to strive to inculcate strong moral values in children while asking security agencies and schools to clamp down on those who abused gender dressing as well as those who peddled illicit drugs and other intoxicants among minors and youths.

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