A mental health advocate, Mr Ameh Abba, has stressed the need for stakeholders in the health sector to make mental health awareness and education priorities in 2019.

Abba, who is the Founder, Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative, an NGO, Lagos,  made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Lagos.

According to him, the awareness of good mental health and well being is in oblivion to the ordinary Nigerian citizen.

He said:”We need to prioritise mental health sensitisation and adequate financing of its service delivery.

“There is also need to increase mental health sensitisation at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

“This will require the government having a mental health desk officer in all the ministries, agencies and parastatals, as well as higher institutions of learning in the country.

“Also, there is need for a standard mental health assessment center across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria servicing beyond just sensitisation. “

The advocate urged the Federal Government to fully implement the National Health Act, and passage of the Mental Health Bill into law.

According to him, this has become very urgent as the growing population of Nigerians suffering from mental illness is very alarming.

“The current lunacy Act of 1954 is no longer tenable as so many things, ranging from the mental health, the disorder to its treatment has evolved largely.

“The passage of the mental health bill has become necessary for a country like Nigeria with huge population and various predisposing factors leading to mental illness and disabilities, which is currently the 2nd global leading burden of disease.

“This new year, I expect to see the realisation of the full integration of mental health services in all the primary health care centres.

“Also, there is need for the inclusion of the mental health service delivery to the National Health Insurance Scheme, “Abba said.

The founder also called on the Federal Ministry of Health, Directors of Special Duties, Victim Support Fund and other related organisations to establish well structured psycho-social support plans and programmes for the security operatives and their families.

“We have already lost hundreds of our security operatives and their families displaced.

“The resultant effect of not having this support programme in place will be very devastating and counterproductive as the security operatives need to be mentally healthy to carry out their duties.”(NAN)