Unemployment and Poverty – Major Causes of Mental Illness in Nigeria

Unemployment and poverty are some of the most significant social causes of health and mental health, crisscrossing with all other causes, including education, unemployment, gender, access to health care, and environment.

In Nigeria, the vulnerable or marginalized groups are at risk of mental illness. an overwhelming majority of people with mental health are living in poverty, poor physical health and are subject to human rights violations. Individuals who experience poverty, particularly early in life or for an extended period, are at risk of a host of adverse health issues through their life.

In childhood, poverty is associated with lower school achievement; worse cognitive, behavioural, and attention-related outcomes; higher rates of delinquency, depressive and anxiety disorders; and higher rates of almost every psychiatric disorder in adulthood. Poverty in adulthood is connected to depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, psychological distress, and suicide.

The evidence is strong for a causal relationship between unemployment, poverty and mental health. However, findings propose that family history does not only predispose to mental illness but drug addiction, poverty, unemployment, socio-economic status, abuse are determinants for psychological development which are effects of lack of education and employment opportunities.

In a society where the youth cannot maximize their full potentials because the majority are unemployed, men and women in cities and rural communities struggle to earn enough income to care for their families make them vulnerable to mental illness. Today in Nigeria, depression and anxiety is on the increase.

Mental health issues cannot be considered in isolation from other areas of development such as education, employment and human rights capacity building. Employment and income-generating opportunities must be created for people, and increase in mental health awareness; Mental health services should be incorporated methodically into all health services including primary level care as an opportunity to raise awareness and offer immediate help.