Original Research

Mental health distress during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria: Need for psychological intervention

Frances Adiukwu, Margaret Ojeahere, Olufisayo Adesokun, Gbonjubola Babalola
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 28 | a1550 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v28i0.1550 | © 2022 Frances Adiukwu, Margaret Ojeahere, Olufisayo Adesokun, Gbonjubola Babalola | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 April 2020 | Published: 27 January 2022

About the author(s)

Frances Adiukwu, Department of Neuropsychiatry, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Margaret Ojeahere, Department of Psychiatry, Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos, Nigeria
Olufisayo Adesokun, Department of Neuropsychiatry, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Gbonjubola Babalola, Tranquil and Quest Behavioural Health, Lagos, Nigeria


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Abstract

Background: The world began to realise the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in January 2020, and since then the number of people infected has exceeded 1 million globally. In less than 1 month following the first reported case in Nigeria, over 180 people had tested positive to the disease. Studies have shown that such rapidly spreading infectious diseases have the potential to create widespread fear, apprehension, panic and anxiety amongst the general public.

Aim: This study aimed at evaluating the impact of information dissemination and public mental healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. It also hopes to determine if there is an unmet need for telepsychiatry in Nigeria.

Setting: Community-based study covering the North, South and West of Nigeria.

Methods: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study using an on-line survey form via the snowballing sampling method.

Results: Social media was identified as the main source of information concerning COVID-19, and half of the respondents opined that information dissemination was inadequate. Psychological distress was present in 90.5% of the participants and 61.8% admitted that this distress was worsened by fake news and myths concerning COVID-19. However, 53.8% of the participants were willing to access mental healthcare services, with telepsychiatry being the preferred choice.

Conclusion: There is a need to implement a national public mental health service during this emergency. Telepsychiatry has numerous advantages in this context and maybe an opportunity to roll out a novel means of delivering mental healthcare.


Keywords

SARS-CoV-2; psychological distress; Nigeria; worry; mental health needs

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