National Association of Seadogs, popularly known as Pyrates Confraternity, has urged the Federal Government to create public awareness on the existence of a new Mental Health Act in the country.
According to the Confraternity, creating public awareness about the existence of such a new law will enhance efforts to protect the mentally challenged in the society.
It stated that such public awareness will also assist plans and programmes aimed at addressing the various challenges inhibiting efforts to check the increasing cases of mental health issues in Nigeria.
The Katamaran Deck of the Pyrates Confraternity comprising Ijebu-Ode and Remo lands with Secretariat in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, made this appeal in a statement to commemorate the 2023 World Mental Health Day. The theme for this year’s celebration is, “Mental Health is a universal human right.”
The new Mental Health Act was signed into law in January 2023 by former president Muhammadu Buhari.
The World Mental Health Day is observed annually on October 10 with the overall objective of mobilising efforts in support of mental health.
The Confraternity noted that the old laws protecting the rights of mentally challenged persons in the country, which even few citizens are aware of, are grossly inadequate and have become archaic and obsolete.
It disclosed that the Regional Lunacy Law made as far back as 1958, when Nigeria was still under colonial rule, actually violated the fundamental human rights of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities, in both content and context.
Capoon of the Katamaran Deck, Mr Olugbenga Otunba Payne, in the statement, noted that the rights of mentally challenged citizens in the country are still being grossly curtailed in line with the provisions of the old colonial Regional Lunacy Laws of 1958 without regard to the recently enacted new Mental Health Act.
Creating the necessary awareness on the new Mental Health Act, he said, would create the enabling environment for Non-Governmental Organisations, individuals and other groups interested in providing assistance and caring for the mentally challenged in the country to function maximally in this regard.
Otunba Payne further noted that the current situation where those having mental health challenges are discriminated against and treated as outcasts and criminals is counter-productive and poses serious threat to the general well-being of the entire society.
He bemoaned the stigmatisation of mentally challenged persons by the society, noting that such attitude discourages patients from seeking medical help and treatment.
He blamed the situation for the increasing number of mentally challenged persons uncared for and seen roaming the streets across the country.
He, therefore, urged the local government, states and Federal Government to take up the challenge of creating public awareness of the new Mental Health Act as well all as giving experts in mental health advanced training in addition to adequately equipping them for their job.
The statement quoted Otunba Payne as saying, “Governments at all levels should make more efforts to create awareness on mental health through advocacy campaigns and adequate education of all citizens. This will go a long way in reducing the incidence of stigmatisation of mentally challenged persons and enhance empathy and understanding of their situation.
“Government should also facilitate proper care for mentally challenged persons by increasing the number of mental health care professionals. This will ensure patients have access to proper care and treatment.