According to the World Health Organisation, one in four Nigerians live with a mental health condition. That’s 50 million Nigerians. Yet, the country is ill-equipped to provide adequate care to the people who need it the most. With only eight federal government-run neuropsychiatric hospitals, there are a ton of people in need of mental health care but are unable to access it.
Institutions aren’t the only things that are inadequate. The laws are too. The latest mental health legislation in Nigeria is the Lunacy Act of 1958. In this archaic law, people with mental health issues are all classified as lunatic. It does not provide for the support of persons with mental health disabilities and enables the arbitrary detention of people who have been classified as lunatics.
There’s a certain stigma attached to mental health issues. From fear to dread, people often view mental health conditions as a disability rather than as an illness.
She Writes Woman, a nonprofit mental health advocacy group, has also been at the forefront of the fight to pass legislation that complies with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons Living with Disabilities (UN CRPD), an international law passed in 2006 which seeks to recognise, protect and promote the rights of persons with all disabilities globally
A number of mental health bills have been presented to Nigeria’s National Assembly in the past decade, and none of those bills has complied with the UN CRPD’s (which Nigeria is a party to) guideline of adopting a human rights-respecting approach to mental health conditions.
This is where She Writes Woman + Zikoko come in
She Writes Woman, in partnership with Zikoko are using the month of May, internationally recognised as Mental Health Awareness Month, to highlight the challenges faced by people with mental health conditions in Nigeria. The partnership aims to draw attention to the inadequate mental health legislation in the country and mount pressure on the appropriate authorities to pass bills that are UN CRPD compliant.
With a four-part series set to run through the month of May, this project seeks to humanise the lived experiences people go through when accessing mental health care in Nigeria.
For the next four Thursdays by 1 pm, we’ll publish stories that tell the realities of living with a mental health condition in Nigeria. We hope to strike social media conversations and raise awareness about what is being done, the opportunities available, and the challenges that lay ahead.
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