The covid-19 pandemic has revealed that various governments globally can be prompt in attending to various social issues. Recently, gender based violence experienced a spike globally and it got considerable legislative attention. This was largely because the teeming population of Nigeria spoke out against gender based violence. Unfortunately, a key issue that have not given sufficient legislative attention in Nigeria is mental health.
According to World Health Organization, Nigeria ranks 15th in the world in the frequency of suicide, the highest caseload of depression. This figure is evening frightening with the emergence of covid-19 pandemic. Since the first covid-19 case was identified in March 2020, there has been an increase in anxiety about work, reduced household income, food insecurities, insecurity, unemployment (Source:AllAfricaPublication). The burden of these issues is basically on mental health. The rate of depression as a result of loss of job, insecurity, fear of being infected by covid-19, poverty has increased greatly. The World Health Organization also estimates that by 2020 mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and substance abused related disorders will disable more people than complications arising from AIDS, heart disease, accidents and wars combined.
In Nigeria, priority has not been given to mental health by the legislative arm of government. It is expected that with the increase in mental illnesses as a result of covid- 19, much effort will be taken by the legislative arm in implementing a mental health framework and policy. Mental Health Policy was first formulated in 1991 in Nigeria. The policy has very wonderful components like advocacy, promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation (Source:FederalMinistryofHealthNigeria,NationalPolicyforMental HealthServicesDelivery). In 2003, a bill was put before the House of Senate for establishment of mental health Act by Senator Ibiabuye Martyns- Yellows and co- sponsored by Senator Dalhatu Tafida. Unfortunately, this bill did not see the light of day. It was withdrawn in 2009. The same bill was reintroduced in 2013, precisely March 20 by Honorable Samuel Babatunde Adejare and Honorable Solomon Olamilekan Adeola.
Unfortunately, decisive actions had not been taken by the legislative arm to pass the bill into law and implementing the components of National Policy for Mental Health Service Delivery.
With the increasing number of mental illness especially depression caused from effects of covid-19 on Nigerians, there is an urgent call for Nigerian government to assign
proper budgetary allocation to mental health. Presently, 4.3 percent of the total national budget goes to health, which is very poor. The government should improve on this so that mental health in the total health budget will take a considerable amount.
The Nigeria mental health policy needs urgent strategic implementation. This will go a long way to surviving the problems posed by the covid-19 pandemic. Nigeria already have well drafted policy framework for mental health. What is needed now is effective and strategic implementation by the legislative arm of government.