Mnena’s Story: Treating Mental Health Conditions & Addressing Social Stigma

Friday, 29 Jan 2021

Treating mental health conditions, addressing social stigma: Stories from Benue State, Nigeria

For many people living with mental illness in Nigeria, the challenge of receiving help is made harder by the limited resources to assist all who need support. According to estimates by the Benue State Comprehensive Community Mental Health Program, there is on average one psychiatrist per one million people, indicating the difficulty facing many who need access to such mental health support.

Recognising the need to improve access to mental health support, CBM Australia collaborated with the Benue State Ministry of Health through the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Program (CCMHP). The project has supported the training of more than 200 front line healthcare providers including doctors, community health workers, nurses and community psychiatric nursing staff enabling integration of mental health services in the State’s primary health care system. Additionally, the project supported the development of 26 self-help groups in the community. The members of these self-help groups were able to receive training in mental health advocacy enabling them to begin to socialise together for the need for mental health support and begin to challenge existing perceptions of mental illness in the community.

Many people have benefited from these services and have reported positive outcomes of the project. One example is Mnena, a young woman from Benue State, who had experienced seizures as an adolescent after sustaining a head injury. After suffering a seizure at school, Mnena felt bullied by her school peers and community and withdrew from the community. Trying to help her, her family to her to traditional healers but this did little to improve her situation.

After introducing Mnena to the self-help groups in her community, she was able to take advocacy and leadership training through the CCMHP, and became the group’s treasurer and built up her self-confidence. Now, Mnena works in a cyber cafe assisting people with their typing and digital needs, using a computer provided as part of the small business start-up scheme in the CCMHP.

Mnena is also optimistic about her health for the future. She hasn’t experienced any seizures since 2015, and is now confident in her ability to reach her goals. Thanking CBM for supporting the project, Mnena said, “This programme helped me a lot and my entire family… If not for this programme, I will not be here today because I was thinking that it (her condition) is caused by witchcraft, and it is something that cannot be resolved.”

CBM looks forward to hearing what Mnena’s next chapter will include and wishes her all the best with her endeavours.

Learn more about CBM’s mental health programs here.

CBM Australia acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).