He added that they also constituted a nuisance to the environment and society at large.
He said that psychiatric patients on the roads of Nigeria constituted only about 20 per cent of the total number of people with mental health challenges in the country.
Okulate described them as “just unfortunate citizens” who, due to one reason or the other, had been abandoned by their family and relatives to be roaming around.
According to him, there were a lot of people with mental health challenges; but because they were lucky to have come from a caring or wealthy family, they were able to overcome the condition.
The psychiatrist, however, explained that the ability to overcome and be cured of a mental illness largely depended on the medication given, its severity and the causative factors.
“People should remember that these indigent and abandoned patients were human beings and still part of the society.
“The state government needs to step up efforts in the care and rehabilitation of the mentally ill patients on the streets of the state, so as to clear them off the roads because they constituted nuisance to the society,” Okulate said.
Okulate called for the establishment of more rehabilitation centres not only in Lagos state, but also across others states of the Federation; where the numerous psychiatric patients on the roads of Nigeria could be gathered for care, treatment and rehabilitation.
“Lagos state has a rehabilitation centre at Ejiro, but that is not enough for a populated state like Lagos. A lot of people with mental health challenges were roaming the roads helplessly.
“Let the government build more rehabilitation centres where these people can be cared for, because mental health illness like every other sickness, is curable.
“We are also calling on good spirited Nigerians, especially philanthropists, groups and faith-based organisations, to come to the rescue of these vulnerable set of people,” he said.
Contributing, a mental health advocate, Mrs Veronica Ezeh, said that the psychiatric patients on the streets/roads could actually contribute to economic development if cured, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society.
Ezeh, the Founder, Adicare Rehabilitation Home, an NGO, said there were many cases where rehabilitated mental health patients became productive again; going about their normal businesses and fending for their families.
According to her, the NGO often moved around to pick some non-aggressive psychiatric patients on the street to care, treat and rehabilitate them.
“When they became normal after the treatment and rehabilitation, for few – their relatives come for them and offset their bills, while for others nobody comes for them.
“So, I solicit for philanthropic gestures to offset the patients’ bills and meet up their daily needs.
Ezeh said that in other climes, the government sees and takes it as a responsibility to help the unfortunate citizens, particularly those on the streets with mental health challenge.
She added that it was also the duty of the government to follow-up after their rehabilitation to work out what such persons needed in terms of shelter and gainful employment because some of them might not be able to locate their families.