Psychiatrist canvasses passage of delayed Mental Health Bill

Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole

Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole

In accordance with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) endorsement of mental health as a universal human right and a fundamental goal for health care systems of all countries, a neuro psychiatrist, Dr. Memumah Yusuf Kadiri has recently appealed to lawmakers to pass as well as implement the Mental Health Bill into an act to halt the dehumanization of the mentally challenged in the country.

Kadiri, who said this during an interview with The Guardian in Lagos, pointed out; “we are in the part of the world were people still regard mental health as a taboo, and largely is because Nigeria is still using the lunacy act of colonial legacy.”

According to her, traditional and spiritual healers in the absence of this act relate most mental ailments to spiritual attacks, with no diagnoses what so ever, this has created avenues for the dehumanization of mentally challenged in the country.

A visit to some of these traditional and spiritual mental homes is an eye saw, as people are seen flogged and chained and some times sexually abused, all because they exhibit symptoms of mental disorder, she lamented.

“If the bill eventually translates to an act, a whole lot will be covered, especially the gap between primary, secondary and tertiary mental cares,” she explained.

She continued, because the primary health cares are not supported and empowered, the slightest symptoms reported are transferred straight to tertiary institution like Yaba Psychiatric Hospital.

The gap in the stages of care according to Kadiri has contributed to more mad people seen on the street, as the situation has left the tertiary mental health institution overpopulated.

Kadiri, a member of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN) regretted that as per information available to her, “the Federal Ministry of Health, (FMoH) does not have a mental health desk where issues of mental health is channeled to, and yet we are the giants of Africa.”

She disclosed that psychiatrists in Lagos have recently forwarded the state version of this mental health bill to the Lagos State House of Assembly, “and am sure steps are being taken on it, perhaps it will encourage the national will,” she added.

She attributed the delay of the passage of the bill which has been on the floor of the House of Assembly since 2003, to political factors, as well as lack of sponsorship, but we hope now that Senator Buruji Kashamu, is sponsoring it, it would be looked at and passed, because we need it badly, she noted.

Kadiri told our correspondent that, “this act is paramount, and we are in the era of change, so that change should also cover this act because if we have one, the huge burden of care on families would reduce.”

As a psychotherapist in private practice, Kadiri pointed out; “people are suffering, as families are doing more pocket payment because health management schemes are not working, and sometimes mental health treatments lingers long than expected.”

But if the bill were passed, a lot of preventive measures would be done, rather than treatment modalities, she emphasized.

She maintained that existence of this act would empower community health care providers, as mental units will be attached to hospitals.

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