Mental health: Nigeria needs social change, says Marwa

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Mental health was on the front burner during the Conversation Conference 2022 in Abuja as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, politicians, government functionaries, and other stakeholders gathered to discuss issues bordering on kidnapping, banditry, relationship, workplace issues, among others.

The Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brig Gen Buba Marwa (Rtd) called for genuine, thought-provoking conversations that will create the social change needed to put the mental health subject matter in the country into proper perspective and catalyse mass awareness, behavioural change, institutional action and national priority on the subject matter.

Marwa who spoke during the forum put together by the Intersect Consortium, lamented that discourse on mental health is still shrouded in secrecy, steeped in stigmatisation and self-denial even as he called on all stakeholders to create awareness about mental health issues in order to give it the priority it required.

Politicians, government functionaries, and other stakeholders gathered at the mental health forum to discuss issues bordering on social vices including kidnapping, banditry, relationship, and workplace issues, among others,

Speaking, the Vice-Presidential candidate of the All-Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2023 elections, Senator Kashim Shettima, and the Presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso pledged to develop sustainable programmes to tackle the challenges of mental health issues in the country if elected into power next year.

“I want to assure you that if we get into office, we will put in place, a programme that will take into cognisance the need to address mental health issues in the country,” Shettima stated,
On his part, Kwankwaso said if elected president, he would replicate on a national scale, the successes he achieved against drug abuse and mental health challenges during his tenure as Kano state governor.

On her part, the Chairperson of the Northern Governors Wife Forum, Mrs. Hadiza El-Rufai, called for workplace policies to remove the stigma associated with mental health so that people can speak out.
El-Rufai who craved public sensitisation about mental health explained that a workplace must not necessarily be a big office.

“Even your home where you have domestic staff is a workplace. We have worked with rehabilitation centres where those who are having problems with substance abuse are brought in, we provide psychological help for them.

“The main focus of the Forum is mental well-being and we are working tirelessly to make sure this issue is brought to the fore.”

The CEO of Intersect Consortium, Vincent Udenze, remarked that the passage of the mental health bill is key to addressing mental health issues in the country, saying that the legal framework presently used in the country is outdated.

“No one is championing the mental health bill at the moment. The legal framework that we are using for the provision of mental health services is over 60 years old. That is not right, it is important that we reach out to the political parties to come here so that we can raise awareness so that the politicians can give their backing.

“Those with mental health challenges in our workplaces, what kind of support are we giving them, are we stigmatising them, do they get comfortable to speak out about what they are going through so that they can get the support that they need or do we stand by the side and mock them just because of their difficulties.

“We do not have enough mental health professionals in Nigeria, but that is not even what we are about now. The question is the ones that we, are you giving them the right framework to do their work? We are calling on the federal government to please give us our Mental Health Act,” he stated.

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