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Pathways to mental health care services in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria

Abstract

Jack-Ide, I.O, Makoro, Bip-Bari P. and Azibiri B

Despite having appropriate mental health policies, mental health services are excluded from Nigeria’s primary health care approach. This study explored the pathways to mental health service of families and persons with mental health issues in the Niger Delta region, to enable effective planning of programs to reduce the gap experienced in accessing care and support. Participants were 50 service users (30 family caregivers, 20 persons living with mental health issues) attending the outpatient clinic at the neuropsychiatric Rumuigbo Hospital, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Semi-structured interviews obtained demographic details and information about three domains: first place visited for treatment, reasons for that choice, and factors that influenced decision to visit the Rumuigbo clinic. 20% had poor knowledge of mental health services, 64% were advised by friends and close relatives to visit the clinic, 20% were referred by a religious healer and 16% by general physicians. People who consulted general practitioners made use of mental health service earlier than those who consulted religious and traditional healers. Policies are needed to support collaborations with religious/traditional healers to educate them about benefits of prompt mental health care, their role in being referral point to appropriate services, as well as a rehabilitative and support network.

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