Stigma: Consultant Urges Law Makers to Pass Mental Health Bill

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A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Grace Ijarogbe on Thursday called on lawmakers in the National Assembly to pass Mental Health bill to protect psychiatric patients in the country from social stigma.

Ijarogbe, who works with the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba, made the call during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Thursday.

She said that the passage of the Mental Health bill had become imperative to provide direction for a coherent response to mental health and substance abuse victims while regulating the activities of mental services and institutions.

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She said that psychiatric hospitals and community health centres based on mental health had no extant laws backing them.

According to her, the bill would seek to address the issue of social discrimination against people suffering from mentally-related ailments.

She described the law that operates in the country as an “archaic lunacy law’’ which she said had been in use since the early 1980s.

Ijarogbe, therefore, called on members of the lawmakers to pass a comprehensive Mental Health bill to create room for the protection of the rights of mental health patients.

“This Mental Health bill in Nigeria has been at the National Assembly for several years without passage into law.

“Unless this bill is passed into law like it was done in some other countries, Nigerian mental health patients will continue to suffer the social stigma.

“In many of our cities today, we see young and old people with mental health challenges running around the streets constituting a public nuisance.

“This is because the government has not come out with a policy to stop such persons and reintegrate them in society. I believe this bill will give them some hope and a second chance in life,’’ she said.

The consultant said like other patients suffering from various ailments, people with a mental ailment should be shown empathy and not discriminated against.

She added that research revealed that 31 per cent of diseases affecting people in the world were mentally and psychologically related.

Contributing, a Psychiatric expert, Dr Samuel Aladejare, called for more budgetary allocation from the government to support mental health challenges.

Aladejare, also the Executive Secretary, Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) of the hospital, said that there was considerable neglect of mental health issues in the country.

According to him, many of those diagnosed with mental illness do not get treatment; they are discriminated and allowed to move around the streets.

Aladejare noted that mental illness like every other sickness was curable if given adequate attention, medications and care.

He said: “Thousands of mentally ill people are deprived of their rights and suffer from discrimination and stigmatisation.

“Over 78 per cent of Nigerians will be upset working with people with mental ailment while some won’t relate with relatives suffering from this disease.

“Even Neuropsychiatric doctors and nurses are not spared of this stigma.’’

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