October 3, 2023

Director of The Vale College Ibadan, Mrs. Funso Adegbola, has called for joint efforts to ensure implementation of the Mental Health Act, to improve mental health services and funding among others in the country.

Adegbola made the call at the third Jemila Abubakar Memorial Essay Award ceremony organised by Asido Foundation held at the International Conference Centre Ibadan on Wednesday. 

Adegbola in her keynote address, while commending Asido for contributing immensely to mental health advocacy in Nigeria, said mental health must be a priority for all individuals and society at large.  

She alluded to the World Health Organisation sayings that “There is no health without mental health!”, noting that for the mental health act to be successful, “we as individuals must champion the advocacy and awareness creation that the Asido Foundation and many others are doing, around the law. 

“Other challenges facing mental health include low levels of government priority for mental health, policies and legislation that are obsolete or poorly implemented, as well as widespread ignorance, shame, and stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis. 

 “Superimposed on these is the paucity of mental health professionals available across the country.”

 In his remarks, the Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Mr. Adebayo Lawal extolled the virtues of the late Jemila Abubakar and enjoined everyone present to emulate her.

 Lawal, the Chairman of the occasion, represented by his wife, Mrs. Ajibike Lawal, urged everyone, the youth in particular to develop their passion to impact their world positively. 

Also, the Co-chairman at the event, a professor of medicine and Neurology, Adesola Ogunniyi stressed the importance of unravelling the myths and misconceptions about medicine, particularly mental health.

 He commended Asido for its advocacy work in demystifying all the stigmas associated with mental illness. 

“I feel we should embrace the idea of making mental health something we should not be ashamed of for individuals that we need to help,” Ogunniyi said. 

Also, Prof. Oye Gureje, in an interview, speaking on the mental health act said, “the signing of the bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari as good as it is, it is only calling for more advocacy by everyone.

“We need to try and get the government to implement the law. This particular law commits the government to not just provide human resources but also financial resources, in terms of implementation.

 “And you know anything that does that usually in Nigeria, gets relegated to the background. I really have my concerns that this is not what the government will implement quickly unless we continue with the pressure that has been going on for years. A lot of work still needs to be done,” Gureje said.

 Earlier in his address of welcome, the Founder of Asido Foundation, Dr. Jibril Abdulmalik, said there was an 80 per cent treatment gap in persons with mental health, adding that misconception and stigmatisation of the illness had not helped in proper medical treatment of the illness.

 He identified human rights abuses of affected persons such as shame, stigma, and discrimination. “Stigma is a broad term, encompassing problems of Knowledge, that is ignorance. The attitude which comes with prejudice, and behaviour is discrimination.

“We are usually afraid of things which we do not understand. The societal impact of Mental ill-Health includes human rights abuses, Stigma, and discrimination, beliefs in supernatural disease causation, drug abuse, and insecurity, few mental health professionals as well as reduced access to care, which is the treatment gap.”

 Abdulmalik further said the JAME award of excellence was to celebrate the legacy of its pioneer program manager who served selflessly.

 He said the qualities she possesses are values we love young people to emulate. “This is why we chose to immortalise her by establishing the Jemila Abubakar Memorial Essay Competition: To continue to hold her memory alive and encourage other youth to emulate her life of sacrifice and dedication to humanity.

 “To promote mental health awareness among young students across the country and to enroll the top fifteen winners in a leadership and mental health fellowship to become mental health advocates.”

 The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the event featured decorations of some distinguished personalities as special ambassadors and patrons of the organisation. 


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