As Mental Health Bill Passed into Law, What Next?
It is no longer news that President Muhammadu Buhari, on January 6, 2023, signed the Mental Health Bill of 2021 into law. This comes after two failed attempts at repealing the 103-year-old “Lunacy Act.”
Ideally the mental health law should lead to improvement in the standard of mental health care in the country. I am certain, that the law, if implemented by all Nigerians, would eradicate stigmatization and discrimination of people with mental health issues.
The narrative can only be changed if we put this law into practice. We need to understand that it takes us to make this work.
Psychologists and Mental Health Advocates have always agitated for ‘a mental health conscious society’, now the advocacy should be centred on implementation of the law.
The law holistic in itself has awakened mental health consciousness among Nigerians so with proper orientation and if taken seriously, we can go a long.
Some provisions of the National Mental Health Bill include creating a Department of Mental Health Services in the Federal Ministry of Health and a Mental Health Fund. This means the health sector would improve on mental health services and accessibility by providing adequate information on prevention, treatment and management of mental health issues.
With the reduction in seclusion and discrimination, people with mental health issues would feel at ease to receive treatment and psychosocial support. The Mental Health Act/Law would also promote the acceptance of Psycho Social Rehabilitation services at the community level which would be a great feat in tackling mental health care challenges in the country.
On mental health issues, everybody is a stakeholder. Everyone should be involved; families, communities, religious and traditional leaders, schools, the government, NGOs & CSOs and the media.
As a nation, we started the year with threats to our mental health; the queue at the fuel stations and the embarrassing display of ‘rights’ in our banks and ATM points as a result of the rush to get the new currency notes.
In addition, we can not help but mention the anxiety in the minds of many as the general election approaches. We still have various personal issues too, all of these can be overwhelming and disruptive to our every day life but in all of these, remember that you need to keep your mental health in check.
Mental Health Law; It takes us to make this work!
Rachel Affiong Umoh