Organisation seeks policy reform on mental health, awareness

Mr Zion Ameh, Founder, Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative, has called on Nigerian Government to reform all outdated laws and formulate new policies to support Nigerians living with mental illnesses.

Ameh told newsmen in Abuja that this would end stigma and misconceptions for those living with mental health problems.

According to him, Federal Government and stakeholders need to make data available to promote mental health policies in the country.

Ameh said one out of every five Nigerians would experience depression in their lifetime, saying it was huge and disturbing.

He said the bill would provide an enabling environment for all Nigerians having mental challenges to access care, essential services, education, health, and employment.

“If we are talking about treatment, or we are talking about human rights of Nigerians as it relates to their mental health, there is no legislation, there is no policy.

“There is no plan in Nigeria as of today that supports the mental health or the human rights of Nigerians, because what we have is the lunacy act of 1958, and that is already obsolete, that is already antiquated.

“So we are hoping that this bill will come out, to unify the treatment plan, unify the National Framework, legal framework for persons with mental disability.

“The bill will also provide enough platform and environment for the stigma and discrimination that persons with disability or persons with mental illnesses are facing at the place of work, society or community.’’

He said there was the need for families to prioritise the mental wellness of children, saying this translates to a mentally aware and healthy society.

The WHO set a global goal for 50 per cent of countries to adopt or revise their mental health laws in conformity with regional and international human rights standards by 2020.

It may be recalled that Nigeria’s first mental health legislation, the Lunacy Ordinance, was enacted in 1916.

In 1958, the Lunacy Ordinance was revised to provide medical practitioners and magistrates with authority to imprison mentally ill people.

However, these laws have not been amended more than five decades after. In 2003, the National Assembly introduced a Mental Health Bill.

Unfortunately, the bill was dropped in 2009 after making little progress for more than six years.

In 2013, a new bill was introduced as part of the National Policy for Mental Health Services Delivery.

The aim was to establish the foundations for delivering care to people with mental, neurological, and substance addiction difficulties.

Due to a lack of support, the new bill has yet to come to fruition. 

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