The Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba, says passing of the National Mental Health Bill into law will help reposition the health sector to meet emerging modern challenges.
The Executive Secretary of the association, Dr Samuel Aladejare, gave the assertion in an interview on Friday in Lagos.
Aladejare said that passage of the mental health bill had became very necessary to provide direction for a coherent response to mental health and substance abuse victims, while regulating the activities of mental services and institutions.
According to him, the bill seeks to address the issue of social discrimination against people suffering from mental related ailments.
“This mental health bill in Nigeria has been at the National Assembly for several years without passage into law.
“And unless this bill is passed into law, like it has been done in some other countries, Nigerian mental health patients will continue to suffer the social stigmatisation.
“In many of our cities today, we see young and old people with mental health challenges running around the street constituting a public nuisance.
“This is because the government has not come out with a policy to stop such kinds of persons, rehabilitate and reintegrate them into the society.
“I believed that this bill will give them some hope and a second chance in life,” he said.
Aladejare said that the bill, which had passed its first and second reading, was at the public hearing stage at the National Assembly.
He said that passage of the bill would grant the human rights of mental patients and ensure that they have access to qualitative care in all mental health or psychiatric facilities.
According to the psychiatrist, it will in general terms enhance the mental health and well-being of all Nigerians.
Aladejare said: “It is supposed to guaranty the human rights and properties of people who are mentally ill and ensure they have access to effective and humanitarian treatments.
“It will task government on the funding for mental health; certain percentages of the National Health Fund should be dedicated to mental health.
“It will also task government on training of mental health professionals of different cadre such as mental health consultants, doctors, nurses, community healthcare providers as well as psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists.
“It will also task government on the ratio of recruitment of mental health workers at every government-owned facility.
“It will task government on integrating mental health to the Primary Healthcare system and other grassroots healthcare programmes.”
He said that psychiatric hospitals and community health centers based on mental health services had no extant laws backing them.
Aladejare explained that the existing law backing mental health and its practice in the country was outdated.
“The 1914 Lunacy Law copied from the English Laws was still the main basis of mental health and psychiatric practice in the country, which is abnormal, regressive and not all-compassing by modern terms,’’ he explained.