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Bringing Music to Deal with Nigeria’s Mental Wellness

Music therapy is now a recognised academic course in countries including Canada, New Zealand, the US and South Africa, and it’s a growing topic in academic discourse. In Nigeria, however, it remains a little-known field. Once or twice a month, Bola Otegbayo brings a team of singers and instrumentalists into this psychiatric unit at University College hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, Nigeria. Otegbayo realised a few years ago that some of her patients were lonely even though their loved ones visited and caregivers provided succour. So she began to share music. Now she is a musicologist alongside her main job as a renal technologist. She would like this form of therapy to be used in other Nigerian hospitals, but admits there are challenges, especially for someone who is not a member of staff. There is a treatment gap for those with mental disorders in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, an estimated 20% to 30% of the population have some form of mental illness. Otegbayo has a degree in physics and another in music. Although organising the sessions is a volunteer service, she keeps training herself. She is a member of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the World Federation of Music Therapy.