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FG should Legalize attempted Suicide-APN

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By Mercy Kelani

90% of suicide cases are linked to mental health conditions; 80% to depression.

Professor Taiwo Obindo, head of the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), called on the Federal Government to align with international standards by legalizing suicide attempts in Nigeria. At a public hearing arranged by the House Committee on Specialty Healthcare and chaired by Hon. Alex Egbona, Professor Obindo criticized the Federal Government for not creating the Mental Health Department as required by law since 2021, despite leading a team of Medical Directors of Neuro-Psychiatric Hospitals across the country.

Suicide Attempt is currently considered a crime under the Criminal Act and Penal Code. Therefore, the initial action needed is to eliminate the criminalization of suicide attempts. Why does the nation penalize individuals who are suffering from mental health conditions and require medical treatment instead of legal action, even though studies indicate that 90% of suicide cases are linked to these conditions, with 80% specifically associated with depression? Surprisingly, Nigeria, often regarded as the powerhouse of Africa, is falling behind as many neighbouring countries have already repealed that law.

Failure to implement a crucial aspect of the Mental Health Act of 2022.

Creating a counselling facility without repealing this outdated law could jeopardize the safety of counsellors as the law includes punishments for individuals who have knowledge of the establishment but fail to inform authorities. Professor Obindo expressed disappointment over the failure to implement a crucial aspect of the Mental Health Act of 2022, citing a breach of the provisions outlined in the Legislation. They must take action to correct the long-standing neglect of this crucial part of the national identity by enforcing the Act.

It is surprising to learn that despite the Act mandating the creation of a Mental Health Services Department in the Federal Ministry of Health over a year ago, it has still not been established. The department is central to overseeing the implementation of the plan in accordance with legal regulations. Therefore, its creation is essential for the success of all their endeavours. Although recognizing that suicide and suicide attempts are primarily clinical issues, he stressed the importance of having well-trained and experienced staff on site to quickly identify and refer at-risk individuals.

Methods for evaluating the complete execution of the Act needs assessment.

He proposed the creation of Mental Health Rehabilitation Centres within all Primary Health Care facilities across the country’s 360 Federal Constituencies. These centres would cater to individuals with long-standing mental health issues, providing the necessary emotional, cognitive, and social support to enable them to lead independent and productive lives within their communities. According to the guidelines of the Mental Health Act, this intervention is designed to be community-centred and can typically span over several months. Placing them in Primary Healthcare centres with sufficient resources would not be ideal.

APN supports following the community-based approach outlined in the Mental Health Act 2021. Staff at the Healthcare centres can then refer clients in need of rehabilitation to appropriate facilities. Instead, they should enhance the capabilities of Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospitals and Mental Health/Psychiatry Departments in Federal Tertiary Health institutions by establishing fully-equipped rehabilitation units with trained staff. Methods for evaluating the complete execution of the Act needs assessment. During his speech, Chairman of the House Committee on Specialty Healthcare, Hon. Alex Egbona, highlighted the committee’s responsibility to oversee the health sector and prioritize specialized health institutions like Neuro-Psychiatric Hospitals, Eye and Ear Care Hospitals, Obstetrics Fistula Centres, Orthopaedic Hospitals, Blood Transfusion Services, Dental and Oral Health Programs, as well as Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Related Article: The Battle to Decriminalize Suicide

The Committee has the responsibility to supervise a total of 25 healthcare facilities and institutions, including hospitals specializing in neurology, orthopaedics, obstetric fistula treatment, eyes and ears care, oral health, and dental care. Additionally, it oversees the National Blood Service Commission, a College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the School of Medical Laboratory. The Committee was established and officially launched, leading to the creation of a Work Plan and Legislative Activity Framework focusing on Mental Health, Blood Transfusion and Management, Oral Health and ENT, Trauma and Obstetrics Fistula, as well as Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine.


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