Make Mental Health Bill a reality, association urges NASS

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The Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN) has called on stakeholders, particularly the National Assembly, to make the Mental Health Bill before it a reality.

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President of APN, Dr Taiwo Sheikh, made the call in his address of welcome during the association’s Annual General and Scientific Meeting (AGSM) in Port Harcourt on Thursday.

Number of persons with mental issues increasing – doctors

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the AGSM is, “Rising Trend of Violence: A Threat to National Peace and Development”.

Sheikh said the choice of the theme was apt considering the fact that the country was currently experiencing a steep rise in the occurrence of violence and other crimes.

He identified the various forms of violent crimes daily confronting the society such as kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, thuggery, banditry and insurgency.

“It is glaring that these issues are truly a threat to our national peace and development and it is time for concerted efforts to address them.

“We, as concerned mental health physicians, understand that prevailing and large scale violence will negatively impact the mental health of the citizenry.

“And for any nation to have true socio-economic and sustainable development, the people must be healthy, most importantly, mentally healthy,” he said.

According to Sheikh, to address the situation, stakeholders must adopt multi-disciplinary and inter-sectoral approach that will develop mental wellbeing promotion, mental illness prevention and mental disorder treatment strategies for victims, survivors and the general populace.

“And, especially the vulnerable groups while harnessing ideas that will prevent violence and promote peaceful co-existence in our communities.

“As we all know that a drastic and significant reduction in violence is a requisite to optimum mental well being, which is required for our collective national growth and development,” he added.

The APN president said that the conference was expected to shed light on various mental health transformations taking place in the country, and most importantly, the need for the passage of the mental health bill.

He said that mental health services in Nigeria were hardly accessible outside state capitals with a ratio of one psychiatrist to over one million persons.

“We have more than twice the number of Nigerian trained psychiatrists working outside Nigeria than those working in the country.

“The same statistics goes for other mental health workers, Psychiatric Nurses, Clinical Psychologists, Mental Health Social Workers and Mental Health Occupational Therapists,” he said.

Sheikh said the new bill would also help to reduce stigma and enhance mental health-seeking behaviour of the Nigerian citizens.

“The National Assembly is once again processing the mental health bill and this process is being championed by no other person than our own dear colleague, Sen. Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health.

“We implore him not to relent in seeing the passage of the Mental Health Bill into law.

“At this point, I implore everyone to join hands with APN in making the Nigeria Mental Health Law a reality by supporting the Mental Health Bill.

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