Mental Health Bill panacea to dignity of mentally ill persons — Minister

The Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora has said that Mental Health Bill is a panacea to the myriad of challenges facing mental health issues in the country.

Mamora said this on Wednesday in Abuja at the 52nd Annual General and Scientific meeting of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN).

He said the Bill passed by the National Assembly  if properly harnessed would go a long way in addressing mental health issues.

According to him, the present administration has focused its priority on the mental health of its citizens because of its importance in building a healthy nation.

“We recognize that the World Health Organization’s definition of mental health is a state of optimal physical, mental and social well-being, and not just the absence of disease or infirmity.

“This fact is further established by the recognition and inclusion of mental health in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We recognize that our nation is grappling with rising prevalence of mental health challenges including depression, psychoactive substance use and rising rates of suicide among our youth”, he said.

He identified dementia as the leading mental health challenge among senior citizens in the country.

“We are also active witnesses to the ravaging effects of the covid-19 pandemic and it is clear that it is associated with mental health consequences such as anxiety and depression.

“Psychological distress from the uncertainties around infections, treatment, job losses and other psycho-social stressors.

“It is gratifying to note that the theme for this year’s AGSM is Mental Health and National Development in Nigeria: A Call for Action.

“No nation can achieve meaningful national development without healthy and productive citizens. And good health of course includes optimal emotional well-being”, he said.

The minister said the Federal Government recognised that mental disorders, if unchecked, represent a clear and potential danger to our collective sense of individual, family, communal and national safety.

“The second reason that I am glad to be here, is the progress that we have made with the mental health bill as we collaborate and partners with the association.

“Several consultative meetings and draft writing workshops were involved over few years, until we have finally arrived at this stage.

“The draft Bill has achieved concurrence at both Houses of the National Assembly and has now been forwarded to the Executive for Presidential assent,” he said.

The President of the association, Professor Taiwo Sheikh, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines that mental health was a neglected issue in the country.

Sheikh said that mental health has been neglected for long by individuals, communities and government at all levels.

“The society stigmatises mental illness. Stigma leads to exclusion and discrimination such that nobody wants to do anything with the person or family.

“In fact we that treat mental illness are stigmatise also. When we enter a public place, people start looking at us as if we are behaving like our patients,” he said. (NAN)

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