The upper chamber of the National Assembly has yesterday deliberated on a bill seeking to establish the National Agency for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to effectively manage mental health and psychosocial disabilities in Nigeria.
According to the sponsor of the bill, Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe of the All Progressives Congress, representing Kwara Central, the bill also contains measures to criminalize abuse of persons with mental health and psychological disabilities.
Therefore, if this bill is passed into law, it will decriminalize substance abuse disorder and increase funding for mental health and psycho-social programmes.
Lamenting the absence of an appropriate Mental Health Law in the nation, Oloriegbe said, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 50 million people are suffering from some sort of mental illness in Nigeria.”
He also added that “as the seventh-largest country in the world, Nigeria has Africa’s highest rate of depression, and ranks fifth in the working frequency of suicide.”
The lawmaker advocated that persons living with mental health and psychosocial disabilities be considered as disadvantaged and vulnerable, adding that the government should make special provisions for them in all spheres of their lives.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in his submission, noted that there was a need for a commission to be established to take care of people with mental illness, and after consideration of the bill, referred the same to the Committee on Health for further legislative work.