Psychiatrist Urges LASG To Help Distressed And Abandoned Mental Patients


Brigadier General Gbenga Okulate (Rtd), a Psychiatrist for the Nigeria Military Hospital Yaba (NMHY), made an appeal to the Lagos state government to help the distressed and abandoned psychiatric patients that were roving the streets in the state. He said that the mental health patients roaming around on the roads not only constituted as a danger to themselves but to others and property as well. He added that they also constituted as a nuisance to both the environment and society at large. He states that psychiatric patients on the roads of Nigeria constituted to only about 20 percent of the total number of individuals with mental health challenges in the country.

Okulate described them as “just unfortunate citizens” who, for uncertain reasons, had been abandoned by their families and relatives to roam the streets. According to him, there are a lot of people with mental health challenges; but they were able to overcome such a situation due to their luck from having either a caring or wealthy family. He, however, explains that the ability for one to overcome and be cured of a mental illness depended mostly on the type of medication that they were given, its severity and the causative factors.

“People should remember that these indigent and abandoned patients were human beings and still part of the society. The state government needs to step up efforts in the care and rehabilitation of the mentally ill patients on the streets of the state, so as to clear them off the roads because they constituted nuisance to the society.”

Okulate called for the establishment of more rehabilitation centres not only in Lagos state, but across others states of the Federation as well as there are numerous psychiatric patients on the roads of Nigeria that could be gathered for care, treatment and rehabilitation saying that, “Lagos state has a rehabilitation centre at Ejiro, but that is not enough for a populated state like Lagos. A lot of people with mental health challenges were roaming the roads helplessly. Let the government build more rehabilitation centres where these people can be cared for, because mental health illness like every other sickness, is curable. We are also calling on good spirited Nigerians, especially philanthropists, groups and faith-based organisations, to come to the rescue of these vulnerable set of people.”

Mrs Veronica Ezeh, an advocate for mental health, contributed, saying that the psychiatric patients on the streets/roads might be able contribute to economic development if cured, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. Mrs. Ezeh, the Founder of Adicare Rehabilitation Home, a Nongovernmental Organization, said that there were many cases where rehabilitated mental health patients were able to become productive again; going about their normal businesses and fending for their families. According to her, the NGO often moved around to pick some of the non-aggressive psychiatric patients on the street to care for, treat and rehabilitate them.

“When they became normal after the treatment and rehabilitation, for a few of them – their relatives come for them and offset their bills, while for others nobody comes for them. So, I solicit for philanthropic gestures to offset the patients’ bills and meet up their daily needs.”

Ezeh said that in other countries, the government sees and takes it as a responsibility to help the unfortunate citizens, particularly those on the streets with mental health challenge. She adds that it was also the duty of the government to follow-up after their rehabilitation to work out what such persons needed in terms of shelter and gainful employment because some of them might not be able to locate their families.