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Feyintiola Gayet

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Mental Health, A Crippling Weight in Women.

Gender is a critical determinant of mental health and mental illness. Here are some facts to botress my point;

  • Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men
  • Leading mental health problems of the elderly are depression, organic brain syndromes, and dementias. A majority are women
  • An estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children
  • Lifetime prevalence rate of violence against women ranges from 16% to 50%

“Mental health is a feminist issue because women's experiences have often been, and continue to be, pathologized..” Dr. Mindy J. Erchull

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Mental health is a component of reproductive health which is generally not given priority in low and middle income countries like Nigeria. Efforts to improve women's health have focused majorly on issues associated with reproduction such as family planning and child-bearing while women's mental health has been relatively neglected.

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The highest range of depression amongst women in Nigeria is ‘parental depression’. Whilst culture shapes the social determinants and expression of depressive symptoms in women there is a vast number of women suffering from parental maternal depression who are unable to speak up or voice out their pains.

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Compared to other countries like Argentina, Australia, Belize, Chile, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Uganda, Ireland, United Kingdom and many others have recognized mental health as an integral part of primary care to treat mental health issues like any other condition included in the primary care service packages. Nigeria should consider integrating and providing mental health care and treatment through primary health care will enhance access, affordability, cost effectiveness and promote respect for human rights which will ultimately provide good health outcomes. This calls for establishment and integration of mental health care as community-based rehabilitation centers in rural areas with a strong primary care network providing complementary care in close coordination with secondary and tertiary care centers. This can also serve as a site for rural posting for psychiatric residents in training and practicing primary care physicians and nurses. This will have a positive impact in addressing mental health challenges in the country.

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