The Problem Statement
Thousands of people with mental health conditions across Nigeria are chained and locked up in various facilities where they face terrible abuse. Detention, chaining, and violent treatment are pervasive in many settings, including state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities. People with actual or perceived mental health conditions, including children, are placed in facilities without their consent, usually by relatives. In some cases, police arrest people with actual or perceived mental health conditions and send them to government-run rehabilitation centers. Once there, many are shackled with iron chains, around one or both ankles, to heavy objects or to other detainees, in some cases for months or years. They cannot leave, are often confined in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, and are sometimes forced to sleep, eat, and defecate within the same confined place. Many are physically and emotionally abused as well as forced to take treatments.
The Policy Solution
This is a Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment and regulation of mental health and substance abuse services, protect persons with mental health needs, and establishment of National Commission for Mental and Substance Abuse Services, for the effective management of mental health in Nigeria and for other related matters.
Some objectives of the bill include:
- Provide enhancement of the mental well-being of the citizens through programs that promote mental health.
- Prevent mental health and psychosocial disabilities.
- Provide effective, compassionate, humane, and universally accessible treatments for mental health and psychosocial disabilities and regulation of mental health substance abuse services.
- Protect persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities needs (from human rights abuse, stigmatization, and discrimination, protect their properties and support their families)
- Ensure that the government and all stakeholders implement the content of the National Policy for Mental Health Care Delivery Services (including the integration of mental health and psychosocial services at all levels of health care delivery services).
- To criminalize abuse of persons with mental health and psychosocial disabilities in Nigeria, decriminalize substance abuse disorder, and increase funding for mental health and psychosocial programs.
NIGAC Constructive Position/Take
The Nigerian government should ban chaining and urgently investigate chaining in state-owned rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals, and faith-based and traditional healing centers in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The government should also prioritize the development of quality, accessible, and affordable community-based mental health services. Apart from raiding and shutting down defaulting centers, people rescued from these desperate conditions and other Nigerians experiencing psychological distress should have access to proper psychosocial support and mental health services.