Reps task health ministry, institutions on mental health

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Abuja.

The House of Representatives has urged the Federal Ministry of Health and other health institutes to ensure the establishment of mental health units in their health facilities to curb suicide in the country.

The resolution was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Clement Nwachukwu (APGA-Anambra) at plenary on Wednesday.

Moving the motion earlier, Nwachukwu said that the primary responsibility of the government was to protect and safeguard the lives of Nigerians as outlined by Section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution.

He said that the section stipulated that the security, safety and welfare of the people of Nigeria should be the primary purpose of the government.

He recalled that on July 12, a teenager took her life after being raped in Oyo, saying that it was one out of many suicide cases underreported and mostly unreported in Nigeria due to social stigmatisation.

Nwachukwu said that there had been media reports on an alarming rise in suicide deaths between 2022 and March 2023.

According to him, suicide is seen as a taboo in most parts of the country and hidden by families due to cultural factors.

He expressed concern that fresh cases of suicide as published in the print media, had a greater proportion of youth as victims.

“In January 13 and 14, Joseph Olona, a 300-level student at Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and 50-year old Ojo Ogundeji, both committed suicide.

“The risk factors for suicide such as mental health conditions, substance use, access to lethal means, prolonged stress, unemployment, financial crisis and child abuse and neglect pose huge threats to Nigerians.

He regretted that there had not been adequate sensitisation of the provisions of laws and guidelines on how people struggling with mental health problems could receive help.

According to him, campaigns should reduce stigma and ensure the acceptability of the regulations to protect the dignity of people struggling with mental health.

The house, however, urged the Federal Government to tackle all factors responsible for increasing suicide in the country.

The lawmakers tasked the ministry to collaborate with relevant institutions to ensure that research on mental health would be put into practice for evidence-based care to Nigerian citizens.

In his ruling, the Deputy Speaker of the house, Rep. Benjamin Kalu, mandated the Committees on Healthcare Services and Health Institutions to evaluate the implementation of the content of the Mental Health Act.

Kalu also urged them to conduct a need-assessment of the full implementation of the law. 

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