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Mental Health: Minister Urges Stronger Collaboration For Solutions

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, has called for collaboration between government, healthcare professionals, non-governmental organisations and the community to effectively address mental health issues.

He made the call on Tuesday in Abuja in commemoration of 2023 World Mental Health Day, themed ‘Mental health is a universal human right’.

LN247 reports that the World Health Organisation set aside October 10 every year to raise awareness around the world and to mobilise efforts in support of mental health.

“The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide,” WHO stated.

Pate urged respective entities to work together to find comprehensive solutions to the growing mental health concerns in the country.

He said mental health problems had become increasingly prevalent, affecting individuals from all walks of life.

According to him, the burden on healthcare systems and support networks is increasing, necessitating a collective effort to provide adequate support and care.

The minister called for a united front in tackling the challenges.

“The state government has a crucial role to play in this collaborative approach. By setting policies and allocating resources, the state government can ensure that mental health initiatives receive the necessary funding and support,” Pate added.

He explained that creating a supportive environment and reducing the stigma associated with mental health were vital steps to encourage individuals to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination.

“Healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, and social workers, are at the forefront of mental health support.

“Collaborating with the government allows these professionals to enhance the quality of care through improved access to services, better training programmes, and increased awareness among healthcare providers.

“Sharing knowledge, best practices, and resources can significantly benefit individuals seeking mental health assistance,” the minister said.

Pate, however, stressed that NGOs also have crucial roles to play in addressing mental health challenges in the country.

“These organisations often operate at the grassroots level, providing support, advocacy and community-based programmes.

“Collaboration with the government and healthcare professionals enables NGOs to leverage their expertise and resources effectively.

“By working together, they can reach more individuals, raise awareness, and advocate for policy changes that benefit the mental health community,” he said.

The minister said community involvement was also essential in addressing mental health issues.

He added, “Communities can provide a support network for individuals struggling with mental health challenges, reducing feelings of isolation and promoting a sense of belonging.

“Community-based initiatives, such as support groups, educational workshops, and awareness campaigns, can help reduce stigma and encourage early intervention,” he said.

He noted that by working together, these entities could create a supportive environment, improve access to services, and raise awareness about mental health.

He added that it was through this collective effort that significant progress could be made in the country.

Also speaking, WHO’s Deputy Country Representative, Alexander Chimbaru, said mental health was a universal human right issue.

He emphasised the importance of good mental health and the impact it has on individuals and society as a whole.

He also highlighted the need to challenge stigma, discrimination and violations surrounding mental health, and emphasised the right of everyone to access quality mental health care.

Chimbaru said WHO was committed to supporting the government and partners in implementing activities to promote and protect mental health in the country.

The Founder of Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative, Mr. Zion Ameh, advocated the need for President Bola Tinubu’s administration to properly ensure the implementation of the Mental Health Act at the grassroots.

Ameh said the Mental Health Act should not remain just a policy on paper but should be implemented at the grassroots level.

To achieve this, he suggested that the government should support initiatives that would create an environment where mental health care services could thrive across the country.

NAN reports that in January 2023, former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Mental Health Bill into law.

The Bill, which was harmonised by the Senate and House of Representatives in 2021, replaced the Lunacy Act of 1958.

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