Health Act, Nigeria’s mental health bill

Nigeria’s mental health bill opportunity to mainstream mental health into health, society ― Expert

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A mental health expert, Dr Olusola Attoe, says that Nigeria’s Mental Health Bill, recently signed into law to replace the outdated Lunacy Act of 1958, offers opportunities for the country to mainstream mental health into the general health and society.

Dr Attoe spoke at the January 2023 edition of the Interactive Monthly Community Engagement (IMCE) series of the Asido Foundation and announced the winners of the 3rd Miss Jemila Abubakar Memorial Essay (JAME) competition.

A consultant psychiatrist, Attoe said mainstream mental health bills will engender a society that recognises the importance of mental health and fully supports the rights and inclusion of those with mental health issues.

She stated that the Lunacy Act of 1958 was based on stereotypes and was derogatory, but the new mental health bill is based on the promotion of ethics, social justice and social inclusion for mental health and people affected by mental disorders.

According to her, the government needs to be committed to the implementation and enforcement of the new mental health law and the revised national mental health policy of 2013 because one in four Nigerians is affected by some form of mental disorder.

While Nigeria has the 15th highest rate of suicide in the world, Attoe said scarce resources, poor implementation of Nigeria’s mental health policy and plan, lack of culturally appropriate care and stereotypes surrounding mental health are barriers to ensuring good mental health in Nigeria.

She, however, declared that the integration of mental health into primary health care services, the establishment of community-based mental health services, training of non-specialists to provide mental health care and embracing holistic and culturally appropriate care are opportunities that Nigeria can tap into for improved care.

“Mainstreaming mental health in Nigeria is crucial to ensure optimal mental health and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). To bring people with mental health problems into the mainstream, there is a need to bring the mainstream to mental health.

“Although government policies and implementation play the most critical role, media, communities, non-governmental and private organisations can contribute to mainstreaming mental health in Nigeria,” she said.

Chief executive officer of Asido Foundation, Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, stated that the foundation was established to counter the ocean of ignorance, shame and stigma around mental health by providing evidence-based information and engaging in advocacy and intervention activities, with an overall aim to improve the mental health of all Nigerians.

Top winners of the JAME competition to improve the public’s knowledge and perceptions of mental health and foster mental health advocacy included Chiahanam Nwobodo, Sulayman Ridwan Oladimeji and Oluwagbemisola Temitope.

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