Thousands Of People With Mental Health Conditions Across Nigeria Are Chained – HRW

 

 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the act of chaining mental health patients in various mental health facilities across Nigeria.

The international rights group urged the Nigerian government to ban chaining, labeling it as “terrible”.

In a report published on Monday the HRW said that Detention, chaining, and violent treatment are pervasive in many settings, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities.

According to the report, deep-rooted problems in Nigeria’s healthcare and welfare systems leave most Nigerians unable to get adequate mental health care or support in their communities.

The group further stated that stigma and misunderstanding about mental health conditions, including the misperception that they are caused by evil spirits or supernatural forces, often prompt relatives to take their loved ones to religious or traditional healing places.

READ ALSO: Daura Torture House: 67 Minors, Teenagers, Others Found In Chains – Police

Below is the full statement as published by the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Thousands of people with mental health conditions across Nigeria are chained and locked up in various facilities where they face terrible abuse, Human Rights Watch said today.

Detention, chaining, and violent treatment are pervasive in many settings, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities.

“People with mental health conditions should be supported and provided with effective services in their communities, not chained and abused,” said Emina Ćerimović, senior disability rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “People with mental health conditions find themselves in chains in various places in Nigeria, subject to years of unimaginable hardship and abuse.”

President Muhammadu Buhari said in October 2019 of the Islamic rehabilitation centers that he would not “tolerate the existence of the torture chambers and physical abuses of inmates in the name of rehabilitation.” But the government has yet to acknowledge that this abuse is rife in government-run facilities too.

Between August 2018 and September 2019, Human Rights Watch visited 28 facilities ostensibly providing mental health care in 8 states and the Federal Capital Territory, including federal psychiatric hospitals, general state hospitals, state-owned rehabilitation centers, Islamic rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and Christian churches. Human Rights Watch interviewed 124 people, including 49 chaining victims and their families, staff in various facilities, mental health professionals, and government officials. The names of the victims have been changed to protect their safety.

Deep-rooted problems in Nigeria’s healthcare and welfare systems leave most Nigerians unable to get adequate mental health care or support in their communities. Stigma and misunderstanding about mental health conditions, including the misperception that they are caused by evil spirits or supernatural forces, often prompt relatives to take their loved ones to religious or traditional healing places.

Human Rights Watch found that people with actual or perceived mental health conditions, including children, are placed in facilities without their consent, usually by relatives. In some cases, police arrest people with actual or perceived mental health conditions and send them to government-run rehabilitation centers. Once there, many are shackled with iron chains, around one or both ankles, to heavy objects or to other detainees, in some cases for months or years. They cannot leave, are often confined in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, and are sometimes forced to sleep, eat, and defecate within the same confined place. Many are physically and emotionally abused as well as forced to take treatments.

A nun in charge during a Human Rights Watch visit to a state-owned rehabilitation center in southeastern Nigeria said they chain people to their beds “so they do not run away.” The nun defended chaining a woman who had HIV “to stop her from going around the men.” Human Rights Watch found another woman at the same institution chained naked to her bed.

The staff, except one older guard, would leave at 6:30 p.m. each day, leaving residents, including children as young as 13, with no one to help them. The facility has no electricity, so people are chained to their beds in total darkness. The nun said that, “The patients are given flashlights to use at night.”

In a traditional healing center close to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Human Rights Watch met a woman who was pinned to a tree trunk with an iron ring. She had been restrained like this for three weeks with her upper body naked. She was unable to move and so she was forced to eat, urinate, and defecate where she sat.

Chaining can cause serious injuries and psychological distress. A 35-year-old woman chained for 10 months in an Islamic rehabilitation center in Kano, northern Nigeria, said, “Everything about this (chaining) is difficult. You feel like you want to commit suicide … regardless of how you felt before coming here, you will get worse.”

Adults and children in some Islamic rehabilitation centers reported being whipped, causing deep wounds. People in Christian healing centers and churches described being denied food for up to three days at a time, which staff characterized as “fasting” for “treatment” purposes.

In many of the traditional and religious rehabilitation centers visited, staff forced people with mental health conditions, including children, to eat or drink herbs, in some cases with staff pinning people down to make them swallow.

In psychiatric hospitals and government-run rehabilitation centers, staff forcibly administered medication, while some staff admitted to administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to patients without their consent.

In some cases, families took their children – including young adults – to religious and traditional rehabilitation centers for actual or perceived drug use or “deviant” behavior, including skipping school, smoking tobacco or marijuana, or stealing from their parents. Some children in the facilities – some as young as 10 – have been abandoned by their families.

Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007. It has the obligation to ensure equal rights for people with disabilities, including the right to liberty and freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and forced treatment. While the Nigerian Constitution prohibits torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment, the government has not outlawed chaining. In a 2015 report, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture said that chaining “unequivocally amount[s] to torture.”

The Nigerian government should ban chaining and urgently investigate chaining in state-owned rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals, and faith-based and traditional healing centers in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The government should also prioritize the development of quality, accessible, and affordable community-based mental health services.

“President Buhari denounced chaining as torture,” Ćerimović said. “But it’s not enough to raid these centers and shut them down. People rescued from these desperate conditions and other Nigerians experiencing psychological distress should have access to proper psychosocial support and mental health services.”

Mental Health in Nigeria

A mental health condition refers to a range of experiences that affect a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior. This includes depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar condition. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, or any other background. The World Health Organization (WHO) says a mental health condition will affect one in four people globally at some point in their lives.

Nigeria has fewer than 300 psychiatrists for an estimated population of over 200 million. Several mental health professionals told Human Rights Watch that quality mental health services are available only to wealthier citizens who can afford it. The lack of quality mental health care and its prohibitive cost often drives people to consult traditional or faith-based healers.

Nigeria’s 1958 Lunacy Act allows the detaining of people with mental health conditions in mental health institutions, even without providing medical or therapeutic treatment. People spend years in institutions – sometimes decades – because Nigeria lacks adequate services to support them in the community. In all but one of the facilities Human Rights Watch visited, people were not allowed to leave or to challenge their detention.

Unlawful Detention

In 27 of 28 facilities Human Rights Watch visited, all residents had been unlawfully detained. They did not enter the facilities voluntarily and could not leave if they wished to do so.

Victor, a 29-year-old Christian man held in an Islamic rehabilitation center in Kano since June 2018, said:

I heard that I would be here only for two weeks at first when I was brought here, then later that changed to one month, then two months. Now I am going on my third month here. Other people here say they were told the same thing, and they ended up staying here for years.

Akanni, a 22-year-old woman who had a mental health crisis following the death of her mother and who had been detained in a church in Abeokuta for five months at the time of a March 2019 interview, said: “When my father brought me, I didn’t know that he would leave me here. I was not happy, but I don’t have a choice.”

Sometimes families pay healers to detain their relative at home and take them to a center. Shums, a 27-year-old man who said he had depression, was taken as he worked on his farm in early 2019:

Two men approached me and asked if they could talk with me. I complied and started walking with them. They jumped on me, handcuffed me, and put shackles on my feet. Then they brought me here [an Islamic rehabilitation center in Kano].

Chaining

In 27 out of 28 facilities visited, staff chained or shackled adults and children. The youngest child chained was a 10-year-old boy and the oldest person was an 86-year-old man who also had a visual disability. Typically, staff fasten a chain to either both or one ankle of a person and connect it to a heavy or immovable object, such as a bed, tree, or car engine. In some cases, shackles consisted of an iron bracelet around both ankles, making it difficult for the person to move around. Some people are chained for a few days at a time as punishment, or for weeks or months to prevent them from moving or leaving.

Shums, a 27-year-old man with depression, was shackled by his leg to another man’s leg in an Islamic rehabilitation center in northern Nigeria. “We are like this all the time. Even when we have to use the toilet or sleep,” Shums said. Two other men there were also shackled together. The center’s healer said one man had suicidal thoughts, “So I chained him to another person who is responsible, to prevent him from killing himself.”

In a government-owned rehabilitation center in northern Nigeria, Human Rights Watch saw dozens of men and women chained. Many were chained by one ankle to a piece of iron welded to the concrete floor. Most had lived there for years, some for up to 15 years.

Staff at a psychiatric hospital in northern Nigeria insisted that chaining did not occur on the premises, but a researcher discovered a ward where people had iron shackles around their ankles.

Despite repeated requests, Human Rights Watch was not allowed to meet or speak to people held in federal psychiatric hospitals in Kaduna, Lagos, and Abeokuta. Two psychiatrists, one psychiatric nurse, and one mental health activist said that shackling occurs in federal psychiatric hospitals across Nigeria. A doctor who works in a psychiatric hospital in southern Nigeria said, “We have to use chains in some cases.” A psychiatrist in a hospital in Lagos said that the staff there use handcuffs.

Tightly bound chains cause painful wounds as well as emotional suffering. Zain, who was chained in a traditional healing center in Abeokuta, said, “I was chained for three months until yesterday, with lots of injuries from the chains which are just starting to heal.” Adedamola, a woman in her 40s held in a church in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria, for two years, said the chains would often injure her ankles.

Unsanitary and Degrading Conditions

People who are chained are forced to live in unsanitary conditions. Many must eat, urinate, defecate, and sleep in the same place, usually within the same place where they are confined.

Staff often provide a bucket or plastic bag to urinate and defecate in, usually in full view of others. Akanni, who was chained in a shed in a Christian church with an unrelated man for up to three days at a time, said, “They left me a bowl to urinate and defecate. I had to do it in front of the man.”

People detained in some Islamic rehabilitation centers Human Rights Watch visited usually had access to toilets during the day, but not at night. Khalil, a young man chained in a center in northern Nigeria after his family accused him of stealing and drug use, said:

If you feel you are in need to use toilet, you wake up someone you are close to and ask them if they have any plastic bag. If you want to urinate, you use the bottle we use for [drinking] water.

Victor, the man chained in Kano, said:

Hygiene is a big issue here. When one person gets sick, it spreads quickly to other people. They refuse to give medicines when necessary because they say we will get hooked on it or they say the police will arrest them for getting it.

Another man said more than 60 people slept in his room: “More than 100 people use 1 toilet, the hygiene is very bad. When we are sick, and we request for drugs, it doesn’t come until we are almost dead.”

A woman in her 30s who was chained to a car engine in a shed together with two men by a traditional healer’s home in Abeokuta, southwestern Nigeria, said: “I go to toilet in this place [where I am shackled] in plastic bags until they take it away at night.”

People also had to urinate and defecate on themselves in two other traditional healing facilities Human Rights Watch visited. A 20-year-old woman said: “They tied me and kept me inside the room at the back for three days. I defecated and urinated on myself while I was in the room.”

The government-run rehabilitation center in southeastern Nigeria had functioning toilets. Yet staff denied those chained there access to the toilets, and instead left them a bucket next to their beds.

In three facilities, staff did not allow people to bathe regularly. A traditional healer in Abuja said: “When people are locked up … they don’t bathe sometimes for months until they feel better…. We just pour water with herbs on them without going very close to them.”

Human Rights Watch also found that people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities were denied food in some Christian healing centers. Akanni, the 22-year-old woman who had been detained in a church in Abeokuta for five months, said:

When I first arrived here, I was tied with chains for three days straight so I could fast. For the three days I had no food or water. It wasn’t my choice, but the pastor said it was good for me. Sometimes if they say I should fast and I drink water or take food, they (staff in the church) put me on a chain. The chaining is punishment. I have been put on chain so many times I can’t count.

Another 27-year-old woman held in the same church said:

When I came here, I started screaming. They took me to the prayer room, where I was chained and forced to fast for seven days. After the first seven days they released me for a little bit and then again chained me for seven days.

Staff in the church and two other churches in the south confirmed the practice.

Violence

People in Islamic rehabilitation centers said that staff whipped them. Khalil, who was shackled for six months in such a center in northern Nigeria, showed researchers scars on his left arm that he said were from whipping.

An Islamic faith healer in northern Nigeria said:

If you are treating someone who is mentally unwell and he acts in a way that is causing disturbance, you will have to treat him. Some of them might be talking to themselves or suffer from lack of sleep…. For some of them, getting enough sleep will help. For others, we need to whip them – once, twice … up to seven times.

A dozen people in that center showed researchers scars on their arms, chests, and backs that they said were from floggings by staff.

Amina, who had a breakdown after her mother died and was taken to various Islamic healers and a psychiatric hospital, said she was tied with ropes, beaten, and spat on in one rehabilitation center in Kaduna, and then molested by a traditional healer in Abuja who came to her home: “He told me to undress, that it is the part of the healing process, and then he started touching my body,” Amina said. “Explain to me, how is that part of a healing process? How is that Islamic?” Staff in a psychiatric hospital in Abuja also tied Amina to a bed and forcibly injected her with medication. “I peed on myself. I was on my period and they just kept sedating me.”

Akanni said that staff had slapped her.

Faith-based and traditional healing centers might have the aim of caring for people who had nowhere else to go for support and help because of a mental health crisis or because they had been abandoned. Many traditional and faith-based healers interviewed seemed to genuinely care about the people in their centers. However, chaining strips people with mental health conditions of their most fundamental rights to dignity and humane treatment. Physical violence and sexual abuse further damages the physical, sexual, emotional, mental, and social well-being of an individual and can amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Forced Treatment

In psychiatric hospitals and government-run rehabilitation centers, staff said that people are given oral and injectable medication without their consent. In two psychiatric hospitals visited, patients were given electroconvulsive therapy without their consent.

In many traditional and religious centers visited, healers forced herbal and other non-medical treatment on people with mental health conditions. One traditional healer in Ibadan said that four people would hold a person down so that he could administer herbs.

Another traditional healer in Ibadan said “We have to force them to take the herbs that will heal them. Sometimes we get strong people, strong boys, to hold them down so we can put the chains on them and give them herbs.”

A Christian pastor in Ibadan described using chains as a threat to make people take herbs. In front of a traditional healer’s home in Abuja, researchers saw several women holding down a 12-year-old girl and making cuts on her back with a blade. They then smeared ground herbs into the cuts. The healer justified it by saying the girl had been stealing from her mother, and they had to let the evil blood come out of her.

Recent Government Action

On June 17 and September 12, 2019, respectively, Human Rights Watch sent letters to the federal government in Abuja requesting to meet with officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development to discuss the findings but received no response. The two federal ministries have also not responded to an October 24 letter setting out concerns about chaining and abuse.

Since Human Rights Watch began investigating chaining in Nigeria in August 2018, several facilities have been closed. In September 2019, police closed an Islamic rehabilitation center in Kaduna that Human Rights Watch had visited in March. Another Islamic rehabilitation center in Kano was closed preventively in October.

While closing abusive facilities is a positive step, the government should ensure that it provides adequate psychosocial and mental health support in the community to people who have been freed. Otherwise, closing down these centers does nothing to address the desperate moves by families to look towards traditional and faith-based centers for loved ones with mental health conditions because of the lack of rights-respecting alternatives.

Recommendations

The Nigerian government should:

Completely ban chaining
Urgently investigate all state and private institutions where people with mental health conditions live in all 36 states and Federal Capital Territory with the goal of stopping chaining and ending abuses
Ensure that people rescued have access to psychosocial support and social services, including child psychologists and specialist support services for children
Train and sensitize government health workers, mental health professionals, and staff in faith-based and traditional healing centers to the rights and needs of people with mental health conditions
Conduct a public information campaign to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the rights of people with disabilities, especially among alternative mental health service providers and the broader community, in partnership with people with lived experiences of mental health conditions, faith leaders, and media
Progressively develop voluntary and accessible community-based mental health and support services, in consultation with people with lived experiences of mental health conditions and with the support of international donors and partners. This should include development of psychosocial support services and integration of mental health services in the primary healthcare system.

‘Pay Attention To Children’s Mental Health’, Sanwo-Olu’s Wife Urges Parents

File Photo of the Wife of Lagos State Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu
Source: Lagos State

 

Wife of the Lagos State Governor, Mrs Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, has urged parents and guardians to pay serious attention to the welfare and mental health of their children and wards.

She made the appeal on Monday at a symposium on substance abuse, explaining that it has become necessary in order to build a sanitized society.

She also stressed the importance of parents giving quality attention to their children adding that they sometimes need to go as far as intruding into their privacy to truly be abreast with them.

“As individual family units, we must focus on the home front, by paying due attention to the welfare and mental health of our children,” the governor’s wife was quoted as saying in a statement signed by the Asst. Director, Public Affairs, Office of the Wife of the Lagos State Governor, Olubukonla Nwonah.

“The type of adults that children grow to become, has a lot to do with the level of decency of their upbringing.

“We must make it our business to sometimes intrude into their business, by knowing who their friends are, where they go, how they relax, what they drink and so on and so forth.

“By so doing, we will be their friend and earn their confidence. It is the way to go, to positively influence our children and reduce peer pressure on them. This will help remarkably, to evolve a decent youth population, for a sanitized society.”

Speaking further, Mrs Sanwo-olu noted that the state had recently updated its Mental Health Law to meet with current realities.

She also assured Lagosians that there will be renewed efforts on the part of the government to improve the overall welfare of youths.

“In the current dispensation, we will see a renewed effort of government to scale up the welfare of youths, through gainful employment, modern education infrastructure, health interventions, sports and recreational activities, among others,” she said.

At a separate event, the governor’s wife also said it was important for all residents to register for the recently unveiled Lagos State Health Insurance Scheme.

According to her, the scheme was a strategic policy of the government designed to achieve affordable, comprehensive and unhindered quality healthcare services for all residents, and as such, it was imperative for it to be embraced by all.

Inaccurate Media Depictions Of Mental Health Must Stop – Dr Jubril

Dr Jubril Abdulmalik, a consultant psychiatrist has said that the inaccurate media depictions of mental health must stop, especially in Nigeria. 

He made the call in Lagos on Wednesday, at a conference with media practitioners on ‘Mental illness and the Media’.

The parley was part of proceeding for the annual general meeting of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba.

In his keynote speech titled, “The Media and Mental Health”, Dr Abdulmalik noted that the media must go beyond seeking traction when it comes to reporting on mental health issues and cases.

Citing examples of recent reports on suicide cases in Nigeria, the astute psychiatrist said the media must approach reports of mental health from a human angle and take leads from positions that do not seek to glorify the ugly side of the tragic events.

He said the impact of reporting mental heath issues inaccurately, can be highly devastating.

“The dangers of negative media portrayals include increasing societal stigma and discrimination against persons with mental health challenges, causing it to be hidden away and become a source of embarrassment and humiliation to the individual and their family members.

“It may also reinforce negative stereotypes about mental illness as a spiritual problem that is not treatable in hospitals. Unfortunately, this is often the case in many Nollywood movies depicting mental illness.

“Specifically, the manner of media reporting on suicide deaths and its impacts on society are well established. There is clear evidence of what is helpful and what is harmful. Unhelpful ways of reporting suicide include providing details of their circumstances, name, background, personal difficulties, how they committed the act, splashing pictures, and summarily presenting it as a considered form of happy release for the individual from their troubles.

 

“Whereas suicide is usually the result of a complex interplay of several factors including life stressors, the personality of the individual, presence of mental illness, available social support etc.

“Unfortunately, such poor reporting practices and discussions tend to have the adverse effect of presenting suicide as a viable option out of life’s difficulties for people. And some vulnerable people will begin to identify with similar struggles in their own lives and may decide to also take the same action.

“This ripple effect of excessive or sensational media coverage of suicide, leading to more suicides (or attempts) is known as the Werther Effect or copycat suicide. In recognition of the evidence-based findings of this relationship, many countries have now devised guidelines for the media to follow when reporting suicide cases,” Dr Abdulmalik said.

Speaking on the role of the media in mental health advocacy, he said the media must help educate the people on “prevention methods, effective and cheap treatments, as well as the possibilities of rehabilitation” of those with mental health issues.

He said the media must assume its role in the fight against discrimination, by helping the public understand the personal challenges of persons with mental illness and their families.

Further reacting to the rise of suicide cases in and around Nigeria, Dr Abdulmalik said suicidal attempts can be discouraged by giving hope that people can cope with mental illness.

He said this can be done by sharing and emphasizing positive stories of coping and overcoming suicidal thoughts.

He also suggested that the media endeavor to get only experts in the field, to talk about issues regarding mental health.

 

“What is helpful in reporting such cases is to focus on the thoughts that lead to suicidal behaviour and emphasise that they are not rational thoughts, and provide alternative sources of support, helplines and where people can go to for professional help when they are experiencing such thoughts and frustrations.

“Getting experts to also provide information about available interventions is also useful. So, the focus should be on identifying the suicidal thoughts and remedial actions rather than the gory details of the act. The privacy and identity of the individuals and their families or the nature of relationships should also be protected as much as possible,” Dr Abdulmalik said.

He surmised that the role of the media in mental health advocacy is a huge one, encouraging all media practitioners provide factual information, positively influence public opinion and health-seeking behaviour, while minimising harmful and stigmatizing reporting of mental illness and affected persons.

WHO Recognises ‘Compulsive Sexual Behaviour’ As Mental Disorder

 

The World Health Organisation has recognised “compulsive sexual behaviour” as a mental disorder, but said Saturday it remained unclear if it was an addiction on a par with gambling or drug abuse.

The contentious term “sex addiction” has been around for decades but experts disagree over whether the condition exists.

In the latest update of its catalogue of diseases and injuries around the world, the WHO takes a step towards legitimising the concept, by acknowledging “compulsive sexual behaviour disorder”, or CSBD, as a mental illness.

But the UN health body stops short of lumping the condition together with addictive behaviours like substance abuse or gambling, insisting more research is needed before describing the disorder as an addiction.

“Conservatively speaking, we don’t feel that the evidence is there yet… that the process is equivalent to the process with alcohol or heroin,” WHO expert Geoffrey Reed told AFP Saturday.

In the update of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD), published last month, WHO said CSBD was “characterised by persistent failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges… that cause marked distress or impairment”.

But it said the scientific debate was still ongoing as to “whether or not the compulsive sexual behaviour disorder constitutes the manifestation of a behavioural addiction”.

Reed said it was important that the ICD register, which is widely used as a benchmark for diagnosis and health insurers, includes a concise definition of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder to ensure those affected can get help.

“There is a population of people who feel out of control with regards to their own sexual behaviour and who suffer because of that,” he said pointing out that their sexual behaviour sometimes had “very severe consequences.”

“This is a genuine clinical population of people who have a legitimate health condition and who can be provided services in a legitimate way,” he said.

It remains unclear how many people suffer from the disorder, but Reed said the ICD listing would likely prompt more research into the condition and its prevalence, as well as into determining the most effective treatments.

“Maybe eventually we will say, yeah, it is an addiction, but that is just not where we are at this point,” Reed said.

But even without the addiction label, he said he believed the new categorisation would be “reassuring”, since it lets people know they have “a genuine condition” and can seek treatment.

– No excuse for rape –
Claims of “sex addiction” have increasingly been in the headlines in step with the #MeToo movement, which has seen people around the world coming forward with allegations sexual mistreatment.

The uprising has led to the downfall of powerful men across industries, including disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has reportedly spent months in treatment for sex addiction.

Reed said he did not believe there was reason to worry that the new CSBD listing could be used by people like Weinstein to excuse alleged criminal behaviours.

“It doesn’t excuse sexual abuse or raping someone … any more than being an alcoholic excuses you from driving a car when you are drunk. You have still made a decision to act,” he said.

While it did not recognise sex addiction in the first update of its ICD catalogue since the 1990s, WHO did for the first time recognise video gaming as an addiction, listing it alongside addictions to gambling and drugs like cocaine.

The document, which member states will be asked to approve during the World Health Assembly in Geneva next May, will take effect from January 1, 2022, if it is adopted.

AFP

Olympic Hockey Champ Warns Of Mental Pressures For Elite Athletes

In this file photo taken on August 15, 2016 Britain’s Helen Richardson-Walsh (C) celebrates a goal during the women’s quarterfinal field hockey Britain vs Spain match of the Rio 2016 Olympics Games at the Olympic Hockey Centre in Rio de Janeiro.
Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

 

British hockey star Helen Richardson-Walsh — who battled back from depression to win an Olympic gold medal in Rio — says young athletes need help to manage the pressures that come with top-level sport.

Richardson-Walsh, 36, said young, ambitious elite sportsmen and women may be unaware of the incessant and challenging demands they will face.
“Transition into sport is equally if not more important than making transition out,” she told a panel in London discussing athletes and their mental health.

“Young people coming now into professional sports is difficult. You go from being someone enjoying sport and doing it because you love it to suddenly being in this environment with the pressure and expectations.”

Richardson-Walsh, who became the youngest woman to represent Britain in hockey at an Olympics at the age of 18, says it is almost impossible to switch off.

“When I woke up in the morning I had to put a heart monitor on my finger before I had breakfast,” she said.

“It told me how many hours I had slept. For breakfast the question was ‘what am I going to eat?’ not ‘what do I want to eat?’.

“The young may want so much to think about being an athlete but it is 24/7, you don’t go to get home at five, job done. You have to think about everything you have to do. Transitioning into that is a big thing.”

Richardson-Walsh, who has competed at four Olympics, has struggled with bouts of depression and wrote a blog documenting her struggles in 2014.

‘Tools’

The hockey player, who was helped by her wife Kate, also a team-mate, says she has even questioned part of the legacy of the Olympic success.

“After Rio and London I visited schools and lots of young girls who suddenly wanted to be a hockey player,” she said.

“Initially I thought for them that is great as it is a pathway to a potential career opportunity but then on the other side I thought ‘ah, actually is that a good thing?’. How early do you decide you want to do that?”

Shameema Yousuf, who works as a psychologist for young players at Premier League side Brighton, says it is important to reach aspiring elite athletes as early as possible.

“I think that is key if we give youth the tools and build their awareness up at that age,” said Yousuf, referring to the 10-16 age group at the club.

“Then they are better able to identify and manage themselves at an older age in an environment where stresses will be different at competition level.

“However, they will have that self-awareness of ‘I am actually going through something and need to go and speak to someone’.”

Richard Bryan, rugby director for the Rugby Players’ Association, with responsibility for welfare services and programmes, says he has observed an interesting change in players coming forward to admit they are battling with mental health issues.

“There is a possible start of a trend among the players who are accessing our confidential hotline,” he said.

“The largest age group last year was 18-25 whereas a couple of years previously it was the over-30s.

“It will be interesting to see if that continues for it suggests those that are coming into the professional system, perhaps work is being done through schools or it is a generational difference and people are more open to talking about issues they are facing.”

Gaming Mogul Quits For ‘Mental Health’ Reasons

 

This file photo taken on October 27, 2015, shows US singer Mariah Carey and Crown Resorts tycoon James Packer on the red carpet ahead of the opening ceremony of the Studio City casino resort in Macau.  Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

 

Australian tycoon James Packer abruptly quit Wednesday as director of his gaming empire Crown Resorts for “mental health issues”, stepping back from all commitments indefinitely.

No further details were given although the billionaire mogul, the scion of a media dynasty, has previously spoken about his battles with depression and how movie star Tom Cruise helped him cope.

“James Packer today resigned from the board of Crown Resorts Ltd for personal reasons,” said a spokesperson for his private investment vehicle Consolidated Press Holdings, which is Crown’s largest shareholder.

“Mr Packer is suffering from mental health issues. At this time he intends to step back from all commitments.”

One of Australia’s richest people, with a personal fortune estimated at Aus$3.9 billion, Packer has long sat at the head of the media and gaming empire built up by his family over three generations.

The 50-year-old had returned to the Crown board last year after earlier moving aside to focus on international interests.

“We have appreciated James’ contribution to the board and respect his decision to step down from his role as a director at this time,” said Crown’s executive chairman John Alexander in a brief statement.

Packer has enjoyed a playboy lifestyle in recent years, hobnobbing with Hollywood royalty including Robert de Niro and Brad Pitt.

In a 2013 interview he detailed how Cruise help him through a tough period when he was “depressed and emotionally exhausted” over the collapse of his first marriage to bikini model Jodhi Meares.

Packer flirted with the Church of Scientology around the same time, but has since distanced himself from the group.

His high-profile engagement and subsequent split from American diva Mariah Carey in 2016 kept him in the public eye, a place he has admitted to finding uncomfortable.

“I have always been shy. I have never liked the publicity,” he told The Australian newspaper last year. “I get more publicity than anyone and have for 20 years. Most of it is negative. And you get gun-shy of getting hit.”

Punch-up

The son of late media baron Kerry Packer, James Packer never been far from the news.

In 2015 he found himself splashed on the front pages after an ugly public punch-up with his former best man David Gyngell, the head of Australia’s Nine Network.

A photographer, who had been hoping to see Packer with then rumoured new love interest, model Miranda Kerr, captured the two men trading punches and wrestling on the ground outside the magnate’s multi-million dollar Bondi Beach waterfront home.

Reports at the time said they fell out after Packer’s split with second wife Erica six months before.

He was also dragged into a corruption probe involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is suspected of receiving luxury gifts from wealthy supporters, but the Australian is not accused of criminal conduct.

Packer has been married twice, and has three children.

Since his father’s death in 2005 Packer has moved the business away from its traditional media operations — the family company used to own the Nine Network — and focused on creating Crown, a worldwide gambling empire.

He returned to the Crown board last year to help oversee a revamp of the company during a tumultuous period after 19 current and former employees were held for 10 months in China on charges of luring rich Chinese to Australia.

They were released last August, but the case hurt Crown’s high roller revenues.

Crown has since been focusing on its casinos in Melbourne and Perth, and developing a Aus$2.4 billion (US$1.9 billion) gaming resort in Sydney.

AFP

Experts Urge FG To Improve Mental Health Care Delivery

mental health, Mental health experts in Nigeria have decried the high rise in mental disorder cases and have urged the government to invest in this sector of the nation’s health care delivery.

They have called for adequate funding, more psychiatric personnel, as well as creation of policies that would allow the general public to be more open to the realities.

Beyond policy formulation, the experts also say laws and policies must be translated into concrete action to ensure strategic turn around in mental health care delivery in the country.

Pointing out causative factors of mental disorders, they listed prolonged depression, anxiety, drug abuse, mood distortion as some of the components.

As a result of the lack of proper acceptance and understanding of this area of health, sufferers of mental issues fear to come open in the public as there are tendencies of being stigmatized, discriminated or even feelings of vulnerability.

For the extreme cases and those who have gone unchecked, their presence on the streets and among residents no doubt send fears into the spine of many as most of them could be violent at little provocation.

According to statistics, one out of every five Nigerians, has a mental disorder, while an estimated 60/64 million are said to have one form of mental disorder or another with about 80% of this population not seeking medical help.

To effectively address some of the challenges in the mental health sector, a National Health Act was introduced in 2003.

The Act sought to protect the rights of persons with mental disorder, ensure equal access to treatment, discourage stigma and discrimination among others. However, 13 years after, it is still yet to be passed into law.

The Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Mr Babatunde Ipaye speaking on the matter, advocated for increase in funding, adequate personnel, as well as effective incorporation of mental health into primary health care delivery.

According to them, this would help the teeming population of Nigerians who have been exposed to one form of mental challenges or the other (mostly without being aware), as a result of policy somersault and especially in the face of the current economic challenges.