Reps move to address 20m mental health cases in Nigeria

The House of Representatives on Thursday took steps to address the rising cases of mental health in Nigeria, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) affect over 20 million Nigerians.

This is as the House mandated the Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities around the country and further carry
out serious sensitization of Nigerians on this issue.

It also mandated the Committee on Health Institutions to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

The decisions of the House followed the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State at plenary.

Presenting the motion, Nnam-Obi said WHO considers mental health as a state of wellbeing in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community.

Read also: Lagos seeks to reduce deaths from mental disorders

He explained that mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.

The lawmaker observed that 3 out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other but presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria.

“However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has
access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatization against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalized standards for Psychiatric practice.

“The increase in cases of depression is traceable to multifactorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention,” he said.

Nnam-Obi expressed concern that Nigeria has only 130 Psychiatrists with over 20 million citizens suffering from mental disorders, lamenting that “with the few functional mental health facilities and inadequate mental health practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.”

He also expressed worry that the statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the Country will simply cause the situation to degenerate.

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