Psychiatrist tasks religious leaders, communities on suicide cases

Prof. Peter Ajiboye, a consultant psychiatrist at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), says that religious leaders and other members of the society have  significant roles to play in preventing mental health patients from committing suicide.

He said this on Thursday at the Medico-Religious Workshop on Suicide Prevention organised by the Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN) to facilitate collaboration between religious leaders and mental health professionals.

His paper was titled: “Collaboration between clergy and mental health professionals in suicide prevention.”

Ajiboye noted that there was the need to take advantage of the numerical strength of religious leaders and their capabilities to give hope to people in distress,

He also commended them for their contributions toward the treatment of people with mental illness.

He said that mental health patients used to suffer from serious psychological pain while they could not help themselves.

He advised that religious leaders should always identify and refer mental health patients to the professionals.

“A successful suicide prevention strategy needs help and input from different people in our system or community.

“Mental health professionals and clergy need to collaborate to maximise the advantages that accrue from both,” he said.

According to him, the clergy are among the first set of people consulted when a person has mental illness.

“They are more in numerical in strength and evenly distributed. They have good understanding of the family and the socio-cultural system.

“Patients and relatives seem to share similar views with them. They have greater influence on their followers.

“They are good in managing neurotic problems (anxiety disorders) to some extent. We must, therefore, take advantage of this, so that they will be very relevant because, when spirituality is promoted, it gives people hope and can prevent suicide,” he said.

Ajiboye explained that the clergy can help to identify some of these mental health patients and refer them appropriately, many suicide acts will be prevented through such arrangements,” he said.

Also, Dr. Maroof Ademola, a consultant psychiatrist at the UITH, in his paper titled: “Myths and facts on Mental illness”, emphasised the need to share facts about mental illness.

He added that depression had now become more common than cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Ademola said that mentally-ill patients would mostly seek the assistance of religious or traditional healers before consulting a professional psychiatrist.

He said such had led to the under-utilisation of the available limited mental health services, increasing cost of care, late presentation, and poor prognosis.

Similarly, Dr. Sulyman Dauda, also a consultant psychiatrist from  UITH, who spoke on : “Overview of depression and suicide”, noted that depression was prevalent among Nigerians, particularly those with chronic diseases or stressful life experiences.

Dauda, who is also the North-East Zonal Coordinator of SURPIN, submitted that depressed patients run a higher risk of committing suicide than other people due to the feeling of hopelessness.

He added that there was the need to adopt preventive measures against suicide in Nigeria and the world at large.

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