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Mental Health

FG Seeks To Decriminalise Mental Health

Muhammad Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, is urging Nigerians to decriminalise mental health as well as empathise and sympathise with patients suffering from such diseases instead.

The minister made the call on Tuesday in Abuja, commemorating the 2023 World Mental Health Day with the theme ‘Mental Health is a Universal Human Right’.

Mr Pate stressed that there is an urgent need to decriminalise mental health in this day and age.

“We should have a progressive approach to look at it. Since we do not criminalise malaria, why should we criminalise mental health issues? I want us to look beyond celebrating this day and look closely at the individuals around us with the eye of empathy. Put yourself in their position. If you are suffering from a disease, there is no reason for you to be stigmatised or for it to be criminalised.”

According to him, mental health is an integral part of health, which is a complete state of physical, social and mental well-being.

Mr Pate noted that there is a hidden epidemic of mental diseases globally and that 15 per cent of the disease burden in Nigeria is a significant cause of morbidity and some mortality due to mental ill health.

Read Also: Mental Health Treatment Gap at 90% – FG

He said the federal government’s approach towards mental health issues or diseases is to take it from a narrow bio-medical one to one that conceives it as a public health issue because it requires a multi-sectorial and multi-stakeholder approach to address it.

“So this is what we have in our hands right now, and that is what we need to do, such as the Mental Health Act, the policy, the guidelines to be developed, all of those represent an approach that we are taking as a country. So the access, affordability and quality of mental health care should be an important direction that we should take in the context of our strategic blueprint for health.”

“We would include access, affordability and quality, not only for the physical but also for mental health.”

However, he said that guidelines need to be developed to operationalise the Mental Health Act passed into law in January.

“We need resources, and I think the federal government will pull from the resources available, but we are calling on states to prioritise mental health, put the resources in as non-state actors are also stepping in. The private sector has an important role to play also because mental health undermines productivity in the workplace.”

“The productivity of your workforce can be undermined by poor mental health in addition to physical mental health. We are calling on the private sector to look at the circumstances of their workforce and do things to make it easier for those who are ill to get the care, enablement and support that they need.”