Demanding psychiatric test for road traffic offences is unwarranted — Prof Oye Gureje – Vanguard


Says bad behaviour should not be linked with mental illness

By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale

A PROFESSOR of Psychiatry at the University of Ibadan, Prof Oye Gureje, has faulted the  Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, over its call for mandatory psychiatric tests for motorists caught driving against traffic and other road traffic offences in the country.

Gureje, who is also Professor Extraordinary at the Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, said such decision was “a logically unreasonable, annoying and irritating thing to do.”

Speaking in Lagos at a media roundtable on Depression and Suicide Prevention, he explained that “it is absolutely wrong to link bad behaviour with mental illness”.


His words:  “You cannot say bad behaviour amounts to mental illness, bad behaviour  is bad behaviour. There are times when people have mental illness and don’t engage in crime. “Such call is nothing but a way of stigmatising mental health services and that will definitely have effect on the mental health service and care seeking behaviour.

“It can also be classified as misusing the service in a country where we have only about 200 psychiatrists to about 20 million people,” he remarked.

At the event, organised by the Nigerian Academy of Science in collaboration with Vitafoam Nigeria Plc, Gureje who is also the Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Neuroscience, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said that the increasing rate of unemployment is fuelling depression and suicide attempt in the country.

“Many aspects of a person’s life and environment can contribute to depression. One very prominent and common risk factor is child neglect and abuse because most mood disorders emerge in adolescence.

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“Nearly half of people with depression have symptoms before they reach the age of 30.”

He said a critical period of transition in people’s lives is when they start to establish a career and set up families.

“Gender is also a risk factor because studies  have shown that the number of women who live with depression worldwide is nearly twice as many as for men.

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“Depression increases the risk of coronary heart disease, including angina and myocardial infraction as well as of stroke. It also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

He suggested social measures, improving social network and support, psychoeduation, psychotherapy, structured physical activity programme, relaxation training among others in treating patients with depression.

Corroborating his views, the Professor and Head of Psychiatry, University of Ibadan, Prof. Olayinka Omigbodun said globally, about 800,000 people commit suicide every year, “more than 50 percent of these are among people aged 15 to 44 years.

“Over 85 percent of all suicides occur in low and middle income countries but they are gross under reporting of suicide. Over 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a mental health problem.

“Although there are no accurate figures on suicide rate in Nigeria, but what we discovered is that there are increasing incidences of suicide attempts. It is four-fold among persons with anxiety disorder, six-fold among persons with substance use disorders and 18-fold among persons with depression.

Omibogun stated that it has been estimated that 50 to 70 percent of all suicides could be prevented if mental health problems, especially depression, were either prevented or effectively treated.

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On his part, Company Secretary/ legal Adviser, Vitafoam Nigeria Plc, Mr Olalekan Sanni said that for most adults, getting seven to eight hours sleep might be the most important thing they need to improve their future physical and mental health.  “As we join hands together to create awareness on issues around depression and suicide, Vitafoam, understand the fact that having good quality sleep is one key to healthy living that is while we have beautiful varieties of products that support quality sleep and rest.

Earlier, Public Affairs Secretary, The Nigerian Academy of Science, Professor Olatunde Farombi said it was crucial to create awareness and  propagate their findings to government, ministries, agencies and the Nigerian public

“People think that depression only happens to adults but recently it has been observed that even children are prone to depression.  Getting the media involved in the forum is for them to propagate the information to the public and make people understand the issues associated with depression and proffer solutions to tackling it,’’




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