The Institute of Medical and Health Law (IMHL) held its 3rd National Medical and Health Law Conference on the 21st day of November, 2023 at the Merit House, Maitama, Abuja. The theme of the Conference was “Maintaining Optimal Mental Health in a Distressed Social-Political Economy” It was aimed to address mental health challenges in the present distressed social-political economy of Nigeria and how to maintain optimal health therein.
The participants were members of the Institute of various cadres, new inductees , seasoned legal, medical and other healthcare professionals, representatives of Federal Ministry of Health, Justice and Education, including the Nigerian Bar Association, students of law, nursing and medicine, various media organizations, Faculties of Law and Medicine from various universities, among others.
In the course of the deliberations, the discussants at the conference noted the following:
1.Mental health is not only a state of mental stability but it encompasses the general wellbeing of humans as well as the ability to cope in spite of the harsh conditions of the society.
2.Mental health is fundamental to the human and economic growth and development of a country.
3.Looking at the present political and economic situations in Nigeria, it is difficult to avoid mental health issues.
4.There is a need to keenly look into issues that seem not to matter, otherwise, they will eventually become matters arising.
5.Economic and political conditions are major factors that must be considered in maintaining optimal mental health in a distressed social-political economy.
6.Maintaining mental health in a distressed economy involves multi-faceted integration of roles, eg the individuals, families, communities, professionals, the government, etc.
- 7.The National Mental Health Act, 2022 makes novel provisions for the protection of the mental patient’s rights as well as institutional organs for mental health administration.
8.There are several challenges regarding implementation of health laws. It takes creativity and determination to ensure adequate implementation.
- 9.To improve mental health, the government should focus on poverty reduction and associated development.
- 10. It is important to seek assistance early not to indulge in the use of hard substances.
- 11. The government needs to do that which is necessary and equitable to promote optimal mental health.
12.There is need to work as a team, seeking for solution and working with the government for optimal impact.
The following recommendations were proferred:
- 1. There should be deliberate consciousness to be alive in the present depressed world.
- 2. It is important for the Institute to develop ethical rules for the management of mental health cases by relevant professionals.
- 3. There should be concerted stress management programmes and activities especially among working class members of the society
- 4. There is need to encourage people to seek help early to avoid irremediable slide into full blown mental health disease.
5. There is need to balance work and wellbeing, make good laws and policies and ensure highest ethical standards.
- 6. Efforts should be made to maintain optimal mental health through a multi-faceted approach, maintaining positive mindset, self-care practices, expanding access to mental health resources, setting of appropriate policies, etc.
- 7. Government should expedite action in turning the economy around as most Nigerian households are in the emergency wards of survival presently.
- 8. Government should take immediate steps to implement the National Mental Health Act, 2022 by establishing the Mental Health Fund and other relevant Committee Department therein.
- 9. Government should increase strategic funding of the health sector generally and the mental health facilities in particular.
- 10. Government at various levels should establish Counselling Centres in all government ministries and parastatals including strategic public spaces for ease of seeking help and report of mental health and psychological cases in Nigeria.
An assessment of the economic state of Nigerians reveals that mental ill-health is very easy to contract given the mounting stress that the average Nigerian is exposed to on daily basis.. The synergy between law and medicine in ensuring optimal mental health cannot be overemphasized. The new National Mental Health Act represents an appreciable improvement in mental health legal regime in Nigeria. The law makes provisions for the protection of patients’ rights and that of medical practitioners. All stakeholders including government at all levels, private sector and the civil society should cooperate effectively to ensure that the mental health issues and concerns are addressed expeditiously through effective implementation of all relevant laws and policies.
Barr. Isaac Imo, FIMHL
Professor Uwakwe Abugu,Ch.IMHL
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