The Covid-19 Pandemic.
According to WHO; Mental health is a state of well being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to to his her community.
The lockdown measures especially that of social distancing put place in curbing the spread of Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in the occurrence of mental illness such as depression and anxety for fear of contracting Covid-19 and loss of job. I believe the mental health policy has been effective in helping individuals with mental illness survive the pandemic and the reasons for my claim will be discussed in this essay.
The mental health policy which has a colonial origin was first passed in the year 1991, it entails advocacy, prevention, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation. This existing law has helped majorly in prevention, advocacy and rehabilitation as healthy habits and positive socio-cultural attributes are being promoted among youths by mental health crusaders, there is increased awareness of mental health which in turn will curb the stigmatization of persons with mental disorder. In terms of rehabilitation, there are organizations which focus on rehabilitating individuals with mental disorder and can easily be reached through their social links. On the other side, the law falls short in areas of defining ‘mental disorder’ and does not take cognizance of the human rights of persons with mental disorders as recommended by WHO.
In 2003, two serving senators namely Sen. Ibiabuye Martyns-Yellowe and Sen. Dalhatu Tafida who were also medical practioners introduced a bill for the establishment of Mental Health Act. The bill passed its first sitting but was later withdrawn in April 2009. Hon. Samuel Babatunde and Hon.
Solomon Olamilekan Adeola re-introduced the bill to the National Assembly on March 20, 2003.
Over a decade since the bill was passed, it is yet to be passed into law. The bill satisfactorily complies with the WHO recommendation of Mental Health Legislation as it entails: definition of mental disorder which covers dissocial personality disorder and substance use disorder, voluntary and involuntary treatment, emergency situation, provision for minors within the mental health and justice system, access to mental health care and services, accreditation of professional and facilities, rights of families and other care givers of patients, oversight and review mechanism, description of offenses with appropriate sanctions were outlined, but still deficient in some vital areas.
To better improve mental health care in Nigeria, the bill should be revised to meet the recent criteria for formulating acceptable and effective Mental Health Legislation as layed down by the WHO bearing in mind that with mentally sound individuals in the society, it will be a better place to live in.