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Medical experts want NASS to pass Mental Health Bill



The Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba (FNPHY), on Wednesday called on National Assembly (NASS) to pass the Mental Health Bill to enhance mental health service delivery in the country.

The Managing Director of the hospital, Mrs Oluwayemi Ogun, told the Nigeria News Agency in Lagos that the revised version of the bill was awaiting passage by the federal lawmakers.

NAN reports that Nigeria’s Mental Health Policy was first formulated in 1991, while the bill was promulgated in 2003.

Ogun said the country had been operating with the archaic mental health bill inherited from the colonial masters.

She noted that lack of functional regulations on mental health issues was affecting psychiatric practice in Nigeria, thereby depriving practitioners and people with mental challenges of their rights.

According to her, the proposed bill presents an overview information about mental health management which intends to help create or improve mental health services.

Ogun noted that reports from World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that mental health issues were being neglected; and as a result, information about the level of mental health service in Nigeria was hard to come by.

“A consequence of this information gap is the continued neglect of mental health issues, and the large need for service that exists for mental health problems in the community.

“This makes it difficult to identify areas of needs, coordinate activities of advocacy groups, and to make informed decision about policy direction in psychiatric practice.

“No fewer than 20 million Nigerians suffer from mental illness. A good number of them go without professional and medical assistance,” she said.

According to her, the mental health bill provides all the modalities for treatment and management of the mentally ill, which includes access to medical services, the modalities and resources of mental health.

“For example, the issue of suicide is still a punishable crime in Nigeria, as it attracts one year punishment.

“But if there is a functional mental health law in place, it could make provisions for handling suicide cases.

“There will be a way of ameliorating the punishment of people caught in the act, like sending them for treatment at rehabilitation centres, rather than just sending them to the police,” Ogun said.

She noted that everything concerning management of mental health challenges and other related issues were all contained in the mental health bill.

Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer, Adicare Rehabilitation Home, an NGO, Mrs Veronica Eze, said that the passage of the bill was pertinent to protect the rights and freedom of persons with mental health challenges.

Eze noted that over time, people with mental illness, particularly those on the streets, had been neglected and segregated from others in the society.

She said the passage and enforcement of the bill would help in bridging the stigmatisation between the mentally sick and the normal persons in the society.

Eze described the bill as an intervention in the state of mental health in Nigeria, urging government at all levels to develop interest and political will to enhance medical care and attention to the mentally ill and their re-integration back to the society.

“The bill and its message is about setting up a commission that will regulate the activities of mental services and institutions.

“In many of our cities today, we see young and old people with mental illness running around the streets, constituting public nuisance, because the government has not come out with a policy to cure or stop such kinds of persons, and re-integrate them into the society,” Eze said. (NAN)


Edited by Folorunso Poroye/Wale Ojetimi