Visiting Nigeria's main Mental Health Hospital - The Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro in Abeokuta, Nigeria 

2:26:00 PM

With Nyi, JCI Rock City members and psychiatric nursing unit during visit to Aro Hospital 

Good Afternoon Beautiful people,

I am winding up on these updates on my trip in Nigeria where
I have been visiting 6 states. I have already shared about my trip to Ibadan and the epilepsy awareness session there plus chronicles from Keffi and Abuja where I shared 10 things to do in Abuja and its environs  and my meetings with mental health service providers in Abuja as well as my visit to Benin City where I did a pidgin radio interview and got a Nigerian name.

In this post, I will share about my visit to the main mental health hospital in Nigeria - the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro in Abeokuta simply known as Aro by locals...for those out of Nigeria, Abeokuta is the capital of Ogun State (Nigeria has 36 states...and I visited 6 for this tour). Aro is a location in Abeokuta where the mental health hospital is located, hope that makes sense.

With the JCI Rock City chair...my tee reads, incase of seizure do not put anything in my mouth (private email me if you want one)
Stigma
Unfortunately, just like any other place, person or thing associated with mental health, Aro is stigmatised, and I remember two narratives we heard when we got there. One was by the host group, JCI Rock City where one of the members shared that his sister who works in mental health came back to Nigeria from abroad and asked him to drive her to the hospital so that she would see their services. He said he took her in and went to pack outside the hospital where he waited for her and when she was done, he wanted her to walk all the way to where he'd packed out of the compound, because he didn't want to be in that space. He went on to say, it's taken a few engagements with the hospital to realise that, it is a hospital like any other. The second narrative was by an attendant at the hospital who said that when he began working there, it was hard to get a cab to drop him at the hospital but slowly and gradually they are becoming 'more accommodating'

Road to Abeokuta
I know I have jumped the gun or cart, ok I jumped something there, by giving narratives and not sharing the journey as I have done with my previous updates. So the day after my packed day in Benin City - where I did a pidgin radio interview and got a Nigerian name - I flew back to Lagos, took a shower and was on a one hour road trip to Abeokuta where Aro hospital is based. Abeokuta is also known as rock city apparently due to rocks that people would hide under during the war which have now become tourist attraction sites, with the main rock being Olumo rock...another item on my Nigerian bucketlist alongside the palace in Benin City and Zuma rock in Abuja.

As we drove into the hospital, I saw a stone indicating that the hospital has been there since 1944. The back story as we were told by the group from psychiatric nursing unit was that it was an asylum back then (which reminded me of the backstory of Kenya's Mathari Hospital), years later the federal government took over the hospital and it now provides mental health services from primary - community mental health to referral services and does training and research.

Loved the vibes from this lady who works at the psychiatric nursing unit 

The hospital offers both in and out patient services with a bed capacity of 500. My best service was the community mental health where they involve the mental health service providers, those who are sick plus their families as well as the community around them in treatment and rehabilitation...guess that's also played a role in the reduced stigma as seen in my narratives above - my guess. In response to the need for research and training in mental health, neuro-psychiatry and related disciplines, Aro became a Neuropsychiatric Hospital. Our meeting was in that unit and besides the general information of what they do, what I do and about JCI Nigeria, we also focused on some key way forward steps for mental health in Nigeria and Africa as a whole...as you can tell by my non disclosure, something is definitely brewing.

We left Abeokuta for Lagos at 5p and I was excited to have the next day as a free day. In my final blog update for this trip, I will share a round up of things to do, ok that I did and wouldn't mind doing again, in Lagos.

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