Stakeholders seek repeal of Lunacy Act
Charge FG to implement mental health law
Stakeholders have charged the Federal Government to repeal the Lunacy Act of 1957, which they claim is encouraging suicide in the country.
During a national conference organised by The Nous Foundation Nigeria on suicide prevention at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) yesterday, stakeholders comprising scholars, experts, non-governmental organisations and government officials expressed dismay over how suicide was being addressed in the country.
Speaking at the conference themed ‘Suicide: A Challenge to a Developing Nation’, the president, Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN), Taiwo Sheikh, lamented that Nigeria had no law on mental health, noting that the Lunacy Act dated back to 1916 when there was no treatment for mental illnesses.
He stated that a review of current state laws using the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guideline for mental legislation showed lack of “focus on human rights and non-discrimination, access to services and least restrictive treatment alternatives.”
The Chief Executive Officer, The Nous Foundation Nigeria, Lade Olugbemi, urged government to implement a national suicide prevention strategy that would address mental health problems and decriminalise suicide through legislation.
According to the Medical Director, Federal Neuro-psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Oluwayemi Ogun, the criminal code, which states that any attempted suicide attracts a year jail term, encourages more deaths.
“Are we saying it is better for someone who attempts suicide to better die, because if that person does not die, then the person will be in jail?” she lamented.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have charged the National Assembly to implement the mental health bill, which has passed first reading, to promote mental well-being, prevent mental illness and ensure access to treatment of mental disorders.
The Medical Director, Gracehill Place Hospital, Dr. Otefe Edebi, stressed that the policymakers needed to look into the mental bill in the National Assembly for decades, which health professionals had been fighting for it to be passed into law, that is still lingering.
Responding, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, promised to ensure that the bill was passed by the first quarter of 2020.