APN calls for domestication of Mental Health Act

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The Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN) has lamented the non-domestication of the Mental Health Act, thereby leaving individuals with mental health challenges, no access to proper care and protection from discrimination.

The Mental Health Bill was signed into law in 2023 by President Muhammadu Buhari after two failed attempts at overhaul in 2003 and 2013.

It is a law that tells people with a mental health disorder what their rights are and how they can be treated.

Despite it existence, the act has not been domesticated.

The association’s national president, Taiwo Obindo, who spoke on Wednesday at a workshop organised by the APN in collaboration with the Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro, Abeokuta, urged the federal government to take swift action in domesticating the act.

He explained that the Act would ensure that people with mental health issues receive the support and understanding they deserve.

The association also pushed for an increased funding to establish a dedicated Department of Mental Health within the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as the creation of a Mental Health Fund to provide vital resources for those in need.

Obindo said, “Domesticating the Mental Health Act is crucial for ensuring that individuals with mental health challenges are not marginalized or stigmatized. We urge the federal government to take action and ensure that all citizens have access to inclusive care and support.

“We now have a humane mental health act that speaks to the rights of those who have mental health conditions. Speaks to care for them. Their right to access to quality care. Nobody should discriminate or stigmatize them, the right to cooperate and to relate well. They must have appropriate and proper care until the person is insightful enough so it’s a whole package.

“The federal ministry of health needs to implement the act , yes we have some states where the act is currently effective, states like Lagos and Ekiti and there are states that are in the process of having it domesticated, but we should start from the head, if the head is able to implement it, then you can then be able to push the states and the local governments,” he added.

Also speaking, Dr Yesiu Kareem, one of the speakers at the workshop, harped on the need for domesticating the Act, adding that, at least 40 million Nigerians suffer from one form of mental health problem.

“Huge treatment gap Only 10-15% of those with mental health problems are able to access evidence-based treatment Total healthcare budget 4% of GDP: of which Mental health accounts for about 3%.

“Less than 300 psychiatrists serve 200 million people, (1: 1 Million). 5-7 out of every 10 Psychiatrists in Nigeria are seeking to emigrate,” he said.