Mainstreaming Mental Health in Nigeria: Barriers and Opportunities

Objectives of the mental health act of Nigeria

Although it is a crucial component of total well-being, mental health in Nigeria frequently receives little attention and funding. This article examines the barriers to the mainstreaming of mental health in the nation and identifies opportunities for advancement.

Nigeria can create a culture that promotes and supports mental health by tackling these issues and utilizing the resources at hand.

The State of Mental Health in Nigeria

The state of mental health in Nigeria is greatly disheartening due to the high frequency of mental diseases and the country’s poor access to high-quality care. Research estimates that about 30% of Nigerians suffer from a mental illness.

Despite this, there is great inaccessibility of mental health services, and the majority of people who have mental health disorders do not receive enough assistance.

5 Barriers to Mainstreaming Mental Health

1. Stigma and Discrimination

In Nigeria, the stigma associated with mental illness is still a significant problem. Many people who have mental health issues deal with social marginalization, prejudice, and misunderstandings.

People are discouraged from seeking assistance due to social pressure and fear of judgment, which also contributes to the marginalization of those who deal with mental health issues.

2. Lack of Awareness and Education

Lack of knowledge and understanding about mental health contributes to the stigma attached to it. Individuals are unable to recognize symptoms, obtain treatment promptly, or offer support to those who are suffering from mental illness due to a lack of education and awareness in this area.

Steps must be taken to de-stigmatize mental health in Nigeria, including promoting awareness campaigns and mental health literacy.

Related: How To Promote Mental Health in Nigerian Schools

3. Inadequate Healthcare Infrastructure

The need for mental health care cannot be met by Nigeria’s current healthcare system. Particularly in rural areas, there is a shortage of mental health specialists and a lack of psychiatric facilities.

The difficulties faced by people with mental health disorders are further exacerbated by the lack of access to high-quality care, diagnosis, and treatment.

Psychologists, counselors, and therapists who could also help are not readily available or adequately skilled to handle the demands in some situations.

Related: How To Improve Guidance and Counseling in Nigeria

4. Cultural and Religious Factors

Religious and cultural practices can have an impact on how people view mental health. Some communities link mental health issues to spiritual or supernatural causes, which leads them to turn to conventional healers or faith-based cures rather than research-based therapies.

Effective mainstreaming requires striking a balance between traditional and spiritual approaches and contemporary mental health care.

5. Policy and Funding Challenges

The mental health industry in Nigeria is plagued by an absence of thorough regulations, laws, and sufficient funding. Without a defined structure, mental health services struggle to get the support and funding they require.

To strengthen the mental health system and secure its integration into the larger healthcare environment, policy reforms, and more funding are necessary.

Opportunities for Mainstreaming Mental Health

1. Mental Health Advocacy and Awareness Campaigns

Consistent advocacy activities are needed to overcome stigma and increase public awareness of mental health. Working with powerful people, media outlets, and community leaders can assist disseminate accurate information, dispel myths, and promote candid discussions about mental health.

Nigeria may support mental health by establishing an accepting and understanding culture. Several other smart moves can be employed in advocating for mental health which I have covered in this article:

2. Integration of Mental Health into Primary Healthcare

A good way to increase access and close the treatment gap is to integrate mental health services into primary healthcare settings. People can receive prompt assistance in comfortable and accessible settings by teaching primary healthcare professionals how to recognize and treat common mental health disorders.

This strategy would improve early intervention and stop mental health problems from getting worse. But this is just one of the numerous institutions mental health can be integrated into that will help the overall progress of the field.

See: 9 Places Counselors and Therapists Can Work in Nigeria

3. Collaboration with Traditional and Faith-Based Healers

Collaboration between these practitioners and mental health professionals helps close care gaps while acknowledging the importance of traditional and religious approaches. 

Nigerians are largely religious and if mental health professionals continue to present their interventions as processes that are anti-religion, they will only prolong their acceptance to the average Nigerian.

A holistic approach to mental health can be achieved through encouraging discussion, exchanging information, and adopting cultural practices that concur with evidence-based therapies.

4. Capacity Building for Mental Health Professionals

To strengthen the workforce and increase access to care, it is essential to invest in the education and training of mental health professionals.

The Nigerian populace would ultimately gain from the enhancement of mental health practitioners’ competence and capacity through the provision of scholarships, grants, and chances for specialized training.

Also, the training process of mental health professionals in Nigeria should be restructured to ensure graduates can actually practice not just carry certificates.

Related: How To Improve Counselor Training Programs in Nigeria

5. Policy Reforms and Increased Funding

Comprehensive mental health policies must be created and put into place to overcome systemic obstacles.

In addition to addressing stigma and allocating adequate resources to assist mental health efforts, these policies should highlight the integration of mental health at all tiers of healthcare. The required improvements can be facilitated by government commitment and collaborations with foreign organizations.

Related: How To Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month in Nigeria


The complicated task of mainstreaming mental health in Nigeria calls for coordinated efforts from numerous stakeholders. Nigeria can establish an atmosphere that encourages mental well-being by tackling obstacles like stigma, lack of awareness, poor healthcare infrastructure, cultural factors, and policy challenges.

The nation can increase access to high-quality mental health services and develop a more inclusive society through lobbying, collaboration, capacity building, and policy reforms.


1. How can I support someone with a mental health condition in Nigeria?

There are quite important steps you must take to support someone in Nigeria who has a mental health illness. To begin with, you must get knowledgeable about mental health to better comprehend their experiences. 

Empathize with them, listen to them without passing judgment, and provide a safe space for them to express themselves. Encourage them to visit a mental health facility or provider for expert assistance.

Be patient, kind, and helpful while also promoting self-care practices like physical activity, a balanced diet, and leisure activities. Never forget that your encouragement can have a big impact on their road to recovery.

2. Are there any helplines or hotlines available for individuals in crisis?

Yes, there are helplines and hotlines available in Nigeria for individuals in crisis. Here are a few important ones:

3. What steps can schools take to prioritize the mental health of students?

Prioritizing the mental health of students in schools is crucial for their overall well-being. Here are some steps schools can take:

  • Incorporate mental health education into the curriculum to raise awareness and reduce stigma.
  • Establish a supportive and inclusive school environment that encourages open communication.
  • Train teachers and staff to recognize signs of mental health issues and provide appropriate support.
  • Create peer support programs or appoint mental health ambassadors within the student body.
  • Offer access to counseling services or collaborate with mental health professionals to provide support.

4. Are there any government programs in Nigeria that focus on mental health?

Yes, the Nigerian government has initiated some programs to address mental health. One notable program is the National Mental Health Act, of 2021. This policy aims to improve mental health services, promote awareness, reduce stigma, and strengthen the mental health workforce.

5. How can I get involved in mental health advocacy efforts in Nigeria?

There are various methods to get involved in mental health advocacy in Nigeria if you’re interested. You can join regional NGOs and groups that advocate for and raise awareness of mental health issues. To help them with their endeavors, provide your time, talents, or resources.

Attend conferences, workshops, or seminars on mental health to increase your knowledge and connect with like-minded people. Participate in online debates, provide correct information on social media, and lend your support to initiatives that raise awareness of and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

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