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National Human Rights Commission Condemns Low Level Attention To Mental Health, Calls For Strategic Planning

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Group photograph of participants at the NHRC Dialogue on mental health in commemoration of 2022 World Mental Health Day. Standing at center and in black suit is Mr. Benedict Agu, the Special Assistant to the NHRC Executive Secretary, Chief Tony Ojukwu

The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chief Tony Ojukwu, SAN has decried the low level of attention being given to issues of mental health in Nigeria.

He contended that humans ought to be mentally balanced and healthy before being physically active and rational to engage in any socioeconomic and productive activities for the overall wellbeing of the country.

Chief Ojukwu who spoke at the opening session of training programme of NHRC Dialogue On Mental Health in Commemoration Of 2022 World Mental Health Day, stressed that mental health is a critical aspect of health that cannot be ignored. It is marked annually on October 10.

According to Chief Ojukwu whose address was delivered by his Special Assistant, Benedict Agu, “Right to health encompasses all components of health, including Mental and therefore within the Commission’s mandate to promote and protect. Unfortunately, mental health doesn’t attract same level of attention as physical health.

“This is a misnomer as the mental component of an individual is as important as the physical. Some people even argue that the mental aspect of a person is much more crucial to daily functioning than the physical.”

Ojukwu noted that in acknowledgement of the essence of Mental Health, the Commission has convened the dialogue for staff in joining the world to mark the 2022 World Mental Health Day which theme was “Make Mental Health and Wellbeing a Priority.”

The NHRC Executive Secretary assured the Commission’s commitment towards improving measures fo ensure that staff have
access to relevant information and services on mental health in order fo meet their mental health needs especially as they are often exposed to complaints that may traumatize them and which actually leave them traumatized.

He further expressed hopes that the dialogue will equip them with useful information and skills in handling complainants of those who are traumatized as a result of their experience such as defilement .i.e. sexual abuse of minor(s}, rape, domestic violence, spousal /family abandonment, torture, extra judicial killing among others.

“NHRC under my watch has continued to take proactive steps in ensuring that both complainants and staff maintain emotional balance, particularly those in departments and units where complaints are received and treated.

“In this connection, a Counseling Unit has recently been created in the Commission to handle cases related to mental health which may arise in the course of work”, he stated.

Some of the issues treated at the dialogue include: Misconceptions, Myths, prejudice, superstition, stigmatization and discrimination related to mental health.

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