President Muhammadu Buhari signed the National Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill 2019 into law on the 5th of January 2023. This new law replaces the outdated Lunacy Act of 1958. The Bill was passed for an Act to provide for the enhancement and regulation of mental health and substance abuse services.
The law will help protect persons with mental health needs and establish human rights protections for persons with mental conditions, to eliminate stigma and discrimination in employment, medical, housing, and other social services. The law will enforce the adoption of global best practices with respect to the rights of the mentally ill while granting them access to care.
The Act also seeks to establish a National Commission for Mental and Substance Abuse Services, for the effective management of mental health in Nigeria. The law will also facilitate the provision of humane care including treatment and rehabilitation in a non-restrictive environment. The law requires the establishment of a Department of Mental Health Services in the Federal Ministry of Health. It aims to promote culturally, appropriate, affordable, and accessible care for mental health that is equitably distributed, integrated, and specialised with the involvement of both the public and private sectors.
With respect to funding, the Act provides for the establishment of a Mental Health Fund. The Fund will provide financial resources for the care and management of persons suffering from mental disorders. This Fund will be financed by voluntary contributions from individuals, companies and the private sector. Monies approved by the National Assembly, donations and gifts, grants from bilateral and multilateral sources, and monies from any source approved by Federal Ministry of Finance, including 10% of the National Health Fund will be set aside for mental health and substance abuse treatment.
This law is vital because hitherto, the mental health laws in the country were outdated and inadequate to address the needs of Nigerians requiring mental care. Now that the Bill has been passed into law, it is expected that work will begin earnestly to put into effect the various provisions, for the benefit of the citizenry and protection of the vulnerable.
To read up on the Bill, see https://nass.gov.ng/documents/billdownload/10903.pdf