This article was written by Kelvin Okeogen Obibi, African Youth Transformation Ambassador and founder of LEED Community Foundation. Examines whether digital technologies can improve access to mental health care in Nigeria.
Rapid advances in digital technologies have resulted in more innovations than anything else in human history, despite some negative effects.
Before I talk extensively about the use of digital technologies in mental health especially in low- and middle-income countries with a focus on Africa/Nigeria, I will mention the challenges that people living in low- and middle-income countries face with their mental health, so that we can better understand its use. Digital technologies in mental health and their impact on low- and middle-income countries.
Estimated that more than 80% of people with mental illness live in lower middle income countries About 85% of the world’s population lives in 153 low and middle income countries on Earth. You can see, the numbers are high and this is also indicative of a mental health emergency.
In Nigeria for example, the shortage of professionals to diagnose mental health issues is one of the main problems facing the country and they are estimated to number more than 200 million people but Less than 300 psychiatrists. There are only 8-10 federal neuropsychiatric hospitals in the country and when these facilities are available, the average person cannot afford them, leaving more residents to self-diagnose with information online.
This is a major problem and researchers could develop a technique that provides a quick but more accurate diagnosis of mental health conditions.
Are digital technologies the solution?
Digital technology in mental health is often seen as a solution to mental health care access issues. As researchers work to develop solutions, we need to look more at how to bridge the gap and access treatment through the use of digital technology. The use of assistive technology will also be able to take mental health care from being a hospital-accredited institution due to the lack of centers to meet mental health needs to being community or home easily accessible via technology.
Recently, digital technology has been introduced to Nigeria to manage mental health issues but due to lack of awareness of these applications, the success rate of these technologies has been low. Information is the key
The prevalence of mental health issues in Nigeria shows that an increasing number of people are susceptible to mood disorders at some point in their lives and that access to mental health services is low due to on-site mental health services to manage them. However, in recent times, digital technologies have experienced a steady growth over the years, but the main problems they face are lack of access to finance, and absence of government in terms of political will, regulatory frameworks and policies.
Another obstacle is adoption. How many people are familiar with these technologies? How many people have downloaded it? And those who own it may not even understand how to use it.
So there is still a long way to go when it comes to digital mental health applications in Nigeria.
You can watch the #MQScienceFestival discussions on the application of digital technologies in mental health below or on MQ YouTube channel.
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