Mental health is the aggregate of the psychological, emotional and social well-being of an individual. It is the determining factor on how we relate with each other within our society. The cumulative state of a person’s mental health conditions, ultimately affects that persons behaviour. As such mental health conditions of a person go a long way to affect his feelings and actions. Our actions are invariably the manifestations of our state of mental health conditions. The NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH ACT, 2021 was more elaborate in its definition of mental health. The Act incorporates situations of ‘intellectual, psychosocial or cognitive disabilities’ within its definition of mental health. Any negative interpretations of these levels of cumulative mental health conditions, go a long way to place a person within the threshold of insanity. Such negative pronouncement calls for the urgent need for a coherent and unified response as provided for within the ambits of the mental health services in Nigeria. The ultimate goal of mental health services is anchored on the core values of the promotion of adequate mental health recovery system and the ultimate rehabilitation and integration of persons with adverse mental health conditions, thus delivering a comprehensive and robust health care system for all Nigerians.
Accordingly, the World Health Organization has equally recognised mental health to be the state of guaranteed level of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with what is believed to be the normal stresses of life, can assiduously be more fruitfully and productively engaged, and at the same time, be in a good stead to make more robust and meaningful contributions to his place of work and community at large.
Mental disability is encompassed within the umbrella body of disabilities and the concept of disability has become much controversial and complicated and as such, the rights of people with mental health challenges are captured within the National Disability Act, but more specifically within the provisions of the National Mental Health Act.
RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS IN NIGERIA
Nothing derogates persons with mental health conditions and challenges from enjoying all the Rights and Privileges accruable to all human beings by virtue of the fact that such mentally challenged persons, are also human beings. A closer definition of “Rights” by the Blacks Law Dictionary, states
that Right is something due to a person by a just claim, legal guarantee or moral principle. It went further to state that “Right” is a power, privilege or immunity secured to a person by law. The United Nations (UN) defined human rights as those rights which are inherent in our state of nature and without which we cannot live as human beings. To this effect, the rights and privileges of persons with mental health challenges are guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, National Mental Health Act, the Disability Act and many other international instruments.
The provisions of the recent legislations on mental health in Nigeria-The NATIONAL HEALTH ACT, 2021, made succinct provisions to address sundry issues bordering on the Rights and Privileges of mentally challenged persons within the Nigerian society. These Rights range from their fundamental human Rights, sections 12 to 23 of the Act; thereafter, sections 46-58 of the same ACT, dwelt on the Proprietary Rights and treatment of persons with mental health conditions in criminal proceedings. These provisions directly align with the various provisions of the Nigerian constitution on the Rights, Duties and Privileges of every Nigerian citizen. The National Health Act 2021, brought to the fore the need to harmonize the Rights of the mentally challenged persons in Nigeria with the more elaborate provisions of the 1999 constitutional provisions. Rights to life, dignity of human person, freedom of movement, liberty, freedom from discrimination, rights to acquire and own lands and property; amongst sundry provisions as contained in the Constitution of Nigeria, are also embedded within the provisions of the new National Health Act, 2021, to make profound pronouncement on the Rights and Privileges of persons with mental health challenges in Nigeria.
To create a new awakening on the hitherto neglected Rights and Privileges of the mentally challenged persons in Nigeria, the new Act systematically itemised these provisions for ease of reference, enforcement and promotion. The National Mental Health Act, 2021, went further to establish the Mental Health Services Department with well-defined and streamlined objectives, powers and functions, all aimed towards ensuring that the Rights and Privileges of the mentally challenged persons in Nigeria are not trampled upon with any reckless-abandon. Asides the establishment of the Mental Health Services Department, the National Mental Health Act, 2021, took the giant strides in ensuring that the Rights and Privileges of the mentally disabled citizens of Nigeria are captured specifically. It went ahead to establish the Mental Health Fund with a follow-up Mental Health Assessment Committee. The functions and objectives of these organs are anchored upon the singular target of overseeing the enforcement, funding and promotion of the enunciated Rights and Privileges of the mentally challenged persons in Nigeria in line with the universal provisions and guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).
A close understudy of the Rights and Privileges of the mentally challenged persons in Nigeria, reveals that such persons amongst all other fundamental Rights and Privileges enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, have the equivocal Rights to enjoy and exercise access to medical, social and legal services, protection from legal and mental abuse and any form of exploitation, forced labour, violence, torture, cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment or punishment including chaining. Section 12 of the Act laid credence on the Rights of the mentally challenged to enjoy these Fundamental Human Rights irrespective of the cause, nature or degree of past or present health condition of such persons. The Act guarantees freedom from any form of discrimination and abuse against persons with mental health challenges, thus, ensuring that such persons are subject to humane and dignified treatment at all times.
People with mental health challenges are guaranteed employment rights with equal protection from employment discrimination on the basis of their health challenges.[10 ] The Act laid greater emphasis upon the provision of adequate healthcare delivery services and treatments of the persons with mental health challenges. Such persons are guaranteed proper treatment, after-care health services, counselling and rehabilitation. Their rights to privacy and dignity are non-negotiable even to the extent that, such persons can participate in their treatment decisions. Although, the National Mental Health Act did not out rightly guarantee housing and accommodation for all persons living with mental health conditions and challenges, it however, stipulated that such victims enjoy protection from improper evictions from their places of abode on the grands of their mental health conditions. In all given situations, the rights to privacy and confidentiality with powers to appoint legal representatives in the affairs of the persons with mental health challenges, received adequate mention and coverage within the provisions of the National Mental Health Act, 2021.
The rights of the mentally health challenged persons in Nigeria are anchored upon their fundamental human rights principles of respect, human dignity, non-discrimination, equal treatment and the provisions of proper healthcare delivery systems and treatments, even, when such treatments are involuntarily sought. Though, the enforcement of these rights are obstructed by challenges of enforcement, promotion and adequate funding. It is recommended that much as noble as these rights are, violators and offenders of the provisions of the National Mental Health Act, 2021, should be dealt with within the provisions of the Act and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Adequate funding coupled with effective monitoring and evaluation, should ensure that the rights and privileges of persons with mental health challenges in Nigeria, are guaranteed and enforced at all times.
 National Mental Health Act, 2021 S.12.
 NMHA, 2021, Ss 13 & 23.
 NMHA, 2021, Ss 15 – 19.
 NMHA, 2021, S. 14.
 NMHA, 2021, Ss 20 – 22.
 United Nations organization- UNO
 1999 constitution and United Nations General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD)
 World Health Organization/World Health Assembly Resolution 74.8 which enjoins member-states to provide effective healthcare services to its citizens.
 National Disability Act, 2018.
 Blacks Law Dictionary 8th ed, (West group, 2019)
 https://www.cdc.gov>learn. Accessed 21 February, 2023.
 National Mental Health Act, 2021.