Psychiatrist wants FG to provide psychological support for xenophobic attack victims

A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Tomi Imarah, has called on the Federal Government to provide psychological support to victims of the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Imarah, who runs an online mental health services, Tomi Haven, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.

NAN reports that President Muhammadu Buhari, had on Sept. 8, ordered the immediate evacuation of stranded Nigerians who had indicated interest to leave South Africa.

The first batch of 187 Nigerians in South Africa had on Sept. 11 returned to Nigeria after the xenophobic attacks.

The returnees, including adults, children and infants, were aided by the Federal Government with the assistance of a Nigerian carrier, Air Peace.

Imarah said that there were deleterious effects of the traumatic experiences that Nigerian citizens had encountered in the course of the attacks in South Africa.

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According to her, some people would have lost businesses and property they spent years to build on when they migrated to the country.

“Some people would have lost their friends and family members in the rampages.

“Some of them would have been actual victims of the assaults and sustaining varying degrees of physical injuries.

“These physical aftermaths are conspicuous to everyone and have served as triggers of the outcries that Nigerians and sympathetic countries around the world have made over the last few weeks.

“However, there is a need to pay close attention to the psychological impact of these vicious attacks because they tend to outlast the physical effects.

“The mental health of the Nigerians who were recently evacuated from troubled regions of South Africa, as well as those who were left behind,  need to be evaluated and managed appropriately, ” she said.

The consultant psychiatrist said that people exposed to traumatic situations like the South Africa attacks were at risk of developing mental health challenges.

According to her, these include acute stress disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and so on.

She advised returnees from South Africa and their loved ones to watch out for behavioural changes.

Imarah said that such changes include irritability, agitations, undue alertness, hyper-vigilance, social isolation, and self-destructive behaviours such as excessive alcohol and other substance use.

“They should also be mindful of intrusive flashbacks, long-lasting sleeplessness, nightmares, overwhelming fear, even in safe environments, emotional detachment, emerging paranoia toward trusted friends and family, and severe anxiety.

“They may also observe persistent low mood, low energy, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness; suicidal ideas.

“These signs should not be taken lightly; it is crucial that such persons access mental healthcare promptly,” Imarah advised.


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