Home Health & Living Mental health: Nigeria explores latest WHO’s MHGAP to bridge gap

Mental health: Nigeria explores latest WHO’s MHGAP to bridge gap

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In a significant step forward for mental healthcare, Nigeria has become the first country to contextualise the newest version of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MHGAP 3.0). Led by the National Mental Health Programme (NMHP), the initiative demonstrates the government’s dedication to bridging the vast mental health gap in Nigeria.

Mental health conditions pose a critical challenge globally, particularly in low- and middle-income countries like Nigeria. 90% treatment gap exists, meaning only a fraction of those needing mental healthcare receive it. This gap is exacerbated by a lack of mental health professionals, further amplified by emigration.

The WHO introduced MHGAP to expand mental health services in non-specialised settings. Recognising the need for a tailored approach, Nigeria contextualised the initial version, which was then adopted nationally. Since then, WHO has released updated versions, prompting Nigeria to lead the way again by contextualizing the MHGAP 3.0 which was launched in November 2023.

Director of Public Health, Dr. Chukwuma Ayanike emphasised the government’s commitment during a recent stakeholder workshop. He highlighted plans to integrate mental health into primary care and other programs to address the treatment gap comprehensively.

Nigeria’s leadership in MHGAP contextualisation is not new. Chairman of the National Technical Working Group on Mental Health, who is also Director of the WHO Centre for Training and Research in Mental Health Neuroscience, and Substance Abuse, Prof. Oye Gureje spearheaded the contextualisation of the first version in 2011 with support from WHO . While initial implementation faced hurdles, Nigeria remains resolute in tackling mental healthcare challenges.

NMHP’s National Coordinator at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Ojo Tunde Masseyferguson commended Nigeria’s global leadership in contextualizing MHGAP. He emphasized the transformative impact of the workshop’s outcomes on mental health service delivery in Nigeria, urging all stakeholders to embrace MHGAP as the primary tool for integrating mental health across all levels of healthcare service delivery.

The workshop aimed to develop a document enhancing the capacity of non-specialised healthcare workers to identify, manage, and refer common mental health conditions, thus improving access to mental health services nationwide. Gureje spearheaded this collaborative effort.

Stakeholders from various sectors, including relevant government agencies like the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, professional bodies, academia, development partners, NGOs/CSOs, and individuals with lived experience, actively participated in the workshop. The Clinton Health Access Initiative played a pivotal role in supporting the contextualisation process, with the Deputy Country Director reaffirming their commitment to addressing Nigeria’s mental health gap and bolstering the healthcare system.

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