Good afternoon Beautiful people,
In today's post, which is the second part of my chronicles from Keffi and Abuja - Read Part 1 on things to do in Keffi and Abuja - I will share the mental health service providers I met with in Abuja.
1. On Sunday afternoon, I facilitated a support group meeting, hosted by She Writes Woman - a forum that brings women going through different types of mental health issues together to speak and support each other through monthly sessions in Abuja and Lagos. Since support group meetings are private closed door affairs, I will not divulge more.
2. On Monday morning, we went for a hospital visit, the Behavioural Medicine Unit in Abuja - the main state referral unit in Abuja - where we met Samuel, a psychologist at the hospital. He was very instrumental in helping us understand the mental health structure in Nigeria. The Behavioural Medicine Unit does both in and out patient services and can host up to 40 people at a time - space is definitely an issue, but hey if we did more awareness and preventative mental health, we will not need to worry about space. Samuel informed us that the most common admissions are on substance abuse and substance induced mental health issues, bipolar, clinical depression and schizophrenia.
He also shared some success stories and I loved how his face lit up when he took us through various recovery journeys that he had been part of or seen at the unit. I loved that the unit works with social workers to help with the transition process from hospital to home and has a trial release program where one is allowed to go home over the weekend before being officially discharged from the hospital. Samuel informed us that stigma even among staff is an issue and told us of an interesting initiative by WHO where staff got free lunch if they ate with those who had been admitted at the hospital.
3. After the hospital visit, we went to Gede Foundation which one of the largest mental health NGOs in Nigeria. Godwin, the partnership manager, received us and took us through a brief history of the foundation. Gede started with work on HIV where they saw the burden of mental health issues in people living with HIV, this is what formed the foundation of their work in the mental health space. They have various projects going on including implementation of the Basicneeds model to various communities including IDPs - I have worked with the Kenyan arm of Basicneeds and visited with the Ghanaian and been in conversations with the US arm so I am very familiar with this model and it is exciting to see Gede adopting it. It basically works around inclusion of community in addressing mental health issues as well as looking at livelihood and self advocacy of those going with a mental health diagnosis.
Gede Foundation has also been involved in research and policy work - where they have successfully gotten mental health care on the HIV guidelines, they also host a mental health CSO coalition that brings together 54 mental health organisations in Nigeria among many other exciting things.