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World Health Day: NMA collaborates with NASS on passage of mental health bill

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) says it will work with the National Assembly to ensure the passage of Mental Health Bill in the country.

The President of the association, Prof. Mike Ogirima, said this at the commemoration of the World Health Day on Friday in Abuja with the theme “Depression: Lets talk’’.

Ogirima said the passage of the bill and its full implementation would protect the rights of people with mental health illness and attract respect and dignity for them as they access health care.

He added that “we will work closely with the National Assembly to pass a comprehensive bill on mental health in Nigeria as part of our corporate responsibility to mental health community and the society at large.

“We commend the interest of some members of NASS for trying to resuscitate the bill.”

Ogirima said the theme for this year’s World Health Day was apt, noting that it laid emphasis on the ability of individuals with depression to function properly at the family level, at work and society at large.

He decried the situation whereby people with mental illness were neglected in the society, saying it was largely because they were considered as defective in character or under punishment for some spiritual deviance.

The NMA president, who expressed displeasure that 4.2 per cent of Nigerians
suffered depression, including children, added that in spite of the heavy socio-economic burden caused by the condition, the nation did not have a mental health policy.

He advised the public against stigmatising or discriminating against people with mental health, particularly depression.

According to him, unless the society embraces and openly talks about depression,
there is high chance of driving such people to extreme hopelessness and despair which can lead to deliberate self harm and suicide.

He said “in commemoration of this day, let us ponder on the rights of people who labour under illness by treating them with respect and dignity.

“Lsts promote their autonomy and right to independent living in communities, offices, within our families and ensure their privacy in clinical settings.

“in Spite of the heavy socio-economic burden caused by depression, Nigeria does not have a mental policy that has been implemented and with the exception of states like Lagos, most local government areas have no organised mental health programmes for its citizens.

“A national strategy to address mental health problems in Nigeria by government at all levels is needed, one which should lay emphasis on prevention.

“On this day, let us commit ourselves to those who suffer depression to ensure that they no longer suffer in silence.

“We must ensure that stigma and misconception about depression do not replace medicine.”

Ogirima noted that the day afforded the union the opportunity to reflect and internalise the great opportunities offered by the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to Nigerians, particularly those with mental health challenges.

He said people with mental health challenges had daunting challenges with regards to access to affordable healthcare.

The World Health Day was first commemorated in April 1948 at the World Health Assembly and billed to be marked annually on April 7.

It was aimed at raising awareness by highlighting priority areas of health concern.



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