In a significant step towards prioritising mental health in Universal Health Coverage (UHC), a citizens advocacy group on mental health Nigeria has passionately appealed to the Nigerian government.
During its courtesy visit to the chairman of the House Committee on Speciality Healthcare of the 10th National Assembly, Hon. Alex Egbona, the founder of the Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative (MHEI) and convener of the Association of Mental Health Reform Organisations in Africa (AMHROA), Mr. Ameh Zion emphasised the importance of integrating mental health into the national healthcare system.
The advocacy visit is a crucial part of ongoing efforts to ensure mental health is given priority in UHC within the country. Zion hoped the government would hear their message and take action. He stressed the urgency and significance of incorporating mental health into the national healthcare system, as UHC aims to ensure everyone can access healthcare services, regardless of their financial situation. Mental health, Zion emphasised, is a fundamental aspect of overall well-being and should be an integral part of UHC.
The group is calling for the promotion of rights-based national legislation that includes mental health, as well as the integration of mental health into primary healthcare to strengthen the foundation of UHC. They are also advocating for increased financing for mental health through engagement with global health financing mechanisms such as the Global Fund, Gavi and the Global Financing Facility.
Additionally, they are pushing for the decriminalisation of suicide and the development and implementation of national suicide prevention strategies. The group is engaging with the country coordinating mechanism of the Global Fund and working with key stakeholders in the Gavi portfolio planning process to include mental health in activities supported by the national immunization program and broader maternal child health initiatives.
Zion called on the Nigerian government to prioritize mental health, holding all branches of government accountable for mental health investment, budgetary allocation, and infrastructure development. He also urged for the inclusion of civil society organisations in national development matters, particularly those related to mental and social welfare.
In his response, Egbona discussed the importance of mental health in the country and the need to adopt and operationalise the National Mental Health Act 2021. He commended the citizens advocacy group on mental health for their efforts and appreciated the three components of their advocacy campaign. He also shared a personal story about a man with a limb disability who committed suicide in his community when he was a young boy, acknowledging the growing concerns and ripple effects of suicide on families, communities and the nation. He requested a paper presentation on the topic.
Furthermore, Egbona mentioned planned events across different states to promote the adoption and implementation of the National Mental Health Act 2021. He expressed gratitude to the entire team and promised to ensure the all-inclusive participation of the MHEI and other stakeholders in this process. The citizens’ advocacy group on mental health is determined to be the voice for better mental health care in Nigeria, united under the motto of “Every Voice Counts”.