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The 2024 theme for the World Health Day is 'My health, my right'. According to the WHO, "This year’s theme was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.". In Nigeria, from the Suicide prevention front, SURPIN would like to spotlight 3 aspects. Firstly, the need to decriminalize suicide attempts. Secondly, the need to expand the coverage of mental disorders cover the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and thirdly, the need to increase the awareness and implementation of the Mental Health Law. We encourage people to have discussions around these issues as well as wider issues that affect mental well-being, especially during these financially challenging times.

With regards to criminalization, suicide is currently treated as a criminal offense within the Nigerian law. Attempting suicide is a criminal offense in Nigeria under Section 327 of the Criminal Code Act, and carries a penalty of up to one year in prison (Constitution of Nigeria, 2019). Lagos State has amended its laws to review the punishment for attempted suicide from imprisonment to hospitalization stating that, “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a simple offense and the court shall make a hospitalization order," reads Section 235 of the Criminal Law of Lagos”.

In terms of NHIS coverage, the care and treatment of persons with major mental disorders is not included in the national health insurance schemes (NHIS) secondary and tertiary care levels, and at the primary care level only is only very minimally covered.  People with mental disorders pay mostly or entirely out of pocket for services and medicines.

In early 2023, a new mental health law was signed into law, but over a year down the line, we need to ask what the level of public awareness is and what the implementation level is across the country.

We invite you to share your thoughts on these 3 important issues.

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