The Nigerian government is now on a commemdable path to demystify the scourge of mental health issues as well as create a safe place for sufferers within the country. Nigeria, the world’s 7th largest country has a population of 200 million people, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four Nigerians (50 million people) suffer from mental health issues, but the country has less than 150 professional psychiatrists. WHO also rated Nigeria as having the highest rate of depression in the African continent where only 10 percent of mentally ill people have access to the kind of care they deserve, making mental health a serious but underrated issue.
The Nigerian Senate is now set to turn things around for good. A bill to that effect which seeks to establish a commission for mental health passed second reading at the Senate on Wednesday. The bill entitled “A Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment and regulation of mental health and substance abuse services, protect persons with mental health needs and establishment of National Commission for Mental and Substance Abuse Services, for the effective management of mental health in Nigeria and for other related matters,2019” was sponsored by Ibrahim Oloriegbe (APC, Kwara Central).
The bill was first introduced to the Senate on October 14 and was passed after the lawmakers debated the provisions of the bill. Leading the debate, Mr Oloriegbe said the bill is aimed at providing for the enhancement and regulation of mental health and substance abuse services;
The bill also seeks to protect persons with mental health needs and establish National Agency for Mental and Substance Abuse Services for effective management of mental health in Nigeria and other related matters, he said.
He complained that there is no Mental Health Law in place in Nigeria other than the Regional Lunacy Law of 1958, which in content and context violates fundamental human rights of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities.
Some objectives of the bill include:
“– Provide enhancement of mental well-being of the citizens through programs that promotes mental health.
– Prevent mental health and psychosocial disabilities.
– Provide effective, compassionate, humane and universally accessible treatments for mental health and psychosocial disabilities and regulation of mental health substance abuse services.
– Protect persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities needs (from human rights abuse, stigmatization and discrimination, protect their properties and support their families)
– Ensure that the government and all stakeholders implement the content of the National Policy for Mental Health Care Delivery Services (including integration of mental health and psychosocial services at all levels of health care delivery services).
– To criminalize abuse of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities in Nigeria, decriminalize substance abuse disorder and increase funding for mental health and psychosocial programs.
While he assured that the bill will protect the rights of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities, Mr Oloriegbe expressed concern at the alarming use of illicit and hard drugs.”