In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, experts in the mental health field lauded the federal government for passing the Mental Health Bill into law. The bill’s successful passing into law has been hailed as a step forward in the industry, one that will allow for ideal safety, development, and expansion in mental health service systems throughout the nation. According to a statement released by the clerk of the National Assembly, President Mohammed Buhari passed on the legislation last week after it had been approved by the National Assembly back in November 2022.
It’s also worth noting that the law went through several phases before receiving the president’s approval. In 2019, the Senate gave the mental health bill a boost towards becoming law by giving it a second reading and scheduling public hearings in the year 2020. Harmonized by the Houses of Assembly in 2021, the measure is credited with being the first post-Independence Mental Health Act and is typically regarded as having replaced the Lunacy Act of 1958.
Nigeria’s mental health care is now controlled by modern legislation.
Speaking on the development, Veronica Nyamali, vice president of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), said that this new National Mental Health Law is “a great move in the right direction” in light of the recent events. She noted that the bill would modify and regulate psychiatric services operations in the country to the worldwide best practices. She adds that the major emphasis is now on all psychiatric facilities, their staff, the general public, and the government to comply with the standards of the legislation.
Nyamali asserts that everyone must conform to the requirements of the law, and anybody who is found to be using antiquated practices is either breaking the law or defying it. As Maymunah Kadiri, consultant Neuropsychiatrist and medical director of Pinnacle Medical Services Ltd., pointed out, with this new development, Nigeria’s mental health care system is now controlled by modern legislation. She further commended the stakeholders for their efforts and support in getting the law passed.
The law protects mental health patients’ human rights.
In light of the fact that the Lunacy Act of 1958 had been in effect for the previous 65 years despite the fact that it was not only out of date but also unethical, Kadiri feels that signing the mental health bill was a good move. The scope of the legislation involves not only the provision of human rights protections for those who are battling mental health issues but also the accessibility of mental health treatments in basic, secondary, and tertiary health facilities located all across the country.
Other positive outcomes include the elimination of restraints such as forced therapy, isolation, and solitary confinement, as well as the assurance that patients have a say in the development of their own individual treatment programs. Conversely, Veronica Ezeh, the director of the NGO Adicare Rehabilitation Home, has spoken out against the past treatment of those with mental health issues. She argues that persons with mental health issues have been subjected to a lot of negativity, denial, stigma, and prejudice, none of which have helped with the treatment or management of their disorders.
Discrimination and stigmatization towards disorders will diminish.
According to Ezeh, who is also a psychiatric nurse at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Yaba, many were refused access to mental health treatments and were instead chained and locked up or sent to prayer homes, where their situations deteriorated. However, she argued that the Mental Health Law would diminish or eliminate all types of discrimination and stigmatization towards persons with mental health disorders. Equity in the treatment of those with mental health issues will be ensured, and there will be clear guidelines for providing mental health services.