Mr Chime Asonye, Founder, Nigerian Mental Health, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the National Mental Health Bill 2021, into law.
He, however, urged incoming administrations to prioritise and implement the National Mental Health Bill 2021, to boost the country’s healthcare system.
Asonye made the call in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday.
The Nigerian Mental Health is a network of leaders and organisations on mental health.
According to him, the bill is the first legislative reform adopted in the field since independence and a major milestone to improve support for psychosocial wellbeing.
“The mental health community came together to speak with one voice in support of the Bill.
“We now need Executive implementation, State Governments to domesticate this legislation, and those contesting for elected offices to make mental health a national priority,” he said.
The network also called on the government to enact other critical reforms for those with mental health conditions, such as decriminalising attempted suicide, which is currently a felony subject to a year in prison.
They also urged the National Assembly to ensure gazetted copies of the Bill are available to citizens, so they know their new legal rights.
Asonye quoted Prof. Gboyega Abikoye, the President of the National Association of Clinical Psychologists, whose organization submitted memoranda during legislative drafting as saying “past legislation was outdated and inhumane.”
“The previous regulatory regime was based on the regional Lunacy Act of 1958, a colonial holdover that needed to be replaced,”
Asonye noted that the regulation, assented to on Jan. 5, established human rights protections for those with mental health conditions, such as banning discrimination in housing, employment, medical and other social services.
”It also guarantees that those receiving treatments have the right to participate in formulating their medical plans and cannot have forced treatment, seclusion or other methods of restraint.
“And other common practices in mental health facilities without appropriate safeguards,” he said.
According to him, other provisions of the Bill include establishing a new Mental Health Fund, a Mental Health Department in the Federal Ministry of Health, and a Mental Health Assessment Committee to protect stakeholders.
Asonye further explained that the Bill also expanded community-based coverage and improved the care and management of those with mental health conditions.