The Senate on Tuesday urged the Federal Ministry of Health and its states’ counterpart to embark on mental health awareness campaign.
This followed a motion by Sen. Oluremi Tinubu (APC-Lagos) on the need to ensure affordable mental healthcare for Nigerians at the plenary.
Worried by the rising spate of suicide and suicide attempts in the country, Tinubu, in the motion, said that societal ills, economic difficulty, crime among others drawbacks were sufficient to send anyone over the edge.
She, however, said that in spite of the issues that could induce suicide, Nigeria’s mental health support system was barely existent.
She said that access to mental health specialists was expensive and almost out-of-reach of the poor and middle class citizens.
“The effect is that where pressure becomes overbearing for these persons, they attack people around them or attempt to take their own lives.
“The incidents of these suicides are made worse by lack of attention and the belief that depression and other personality and mental disorders are the white man’s sickness and thus, does not affect Nigerians,” the lawmaker said.
She said that access to mental healthcare would ensure that the teeming number of psychology and psychiatric graduates across the country could put their knowledge to use and be gainfully employed.
In his contribution, Sen. Shehu Sani (APC-Kaduna) said, “there was a connection between the iniquity of the economic system with the mental health of our people.
“People attempt to take their lives; there is a dark cloud of guilt that hangs over us.
“This is our collective responsibility – those of us in position of leadership, it is our inability to strongly unfold the socio-economic system that will in every way prevent people from taking their lives.
“The economic indicators have shown clear widening gap between the rich and poor.’’
He said that unemployment, the lack of assurance, despondency, despair and hopelessness among the people had in many ways pushed individuals into taking their lives.
According to Sani, the motion addresses a number of issues such as the health aspect, the political aspect and the need for a social intervention.
He said that no matter the number of hospitals governments built or equipped, as long as there was hardship in the country, human tragedies would continue to be recorded.
“As long as it is increasingly becoming difficult for our people to carter for their families, to address the socio-economic needs and to build their homes on hope, we will be very far from addressing these issues.
“As people in the position of power, our place in history will not be how many rich people we are able to build out of the system but the number of poor we are able to lift out of poverty,” he said.
Sen. Jibrin Barau (APC-Kano) attributed the spate of suicide to economic recession, and called on the government to perform its function of ensuring the wellbeing of the citizen.
Similarly, Sen. Jonah Jang (PDP-Plateau) said that the issue of non-affordability of mental healthcare was affecting the country greatly.
He called for a public hearing to enable the Senate to have the public’s view on the matter.
“If we do that we will be able to come out with a better solution,” Jang said.
The motion was unanimously passed but the prayer for a public hearing on the matter was rejected when the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided at plenary, put the question to a vote.