Asido Foundation Calls for Decriminalisation of Attempted Suicide in Nigeria

Asido Regional Coordinator II Abuja, Dr Chibuzo Anoje; Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, Founder, Asido Foundation; Attorney General and Hon Minister of Justice, Chief Lateef Olasunkanmi Fagbemi, SAN; Chairman, Asido BOT, Mr Meka Niyi Olowola; and Asido Regional Coordinator I, Abuja, Mrs Yetunde Enendu, during the Foundation's courtesy visit to the Minister in Abuja, recently. Photo: Asido Foundation

By Olusegun Obisanya

The Asido Foundation, a prominent mental health advocacy organisation, has approached the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, seeking support for the decriminalisation of attempted suicide in Nigeria.
During a recent advocacy visit, a statement from the organisation disclosed, the Foundation urged the Minister’s backing for the implementation of the Mental Health Act, which is crucial for protecting the human rights of persons with mental disorders.
The Asido Foundation delegation, led by Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Meka Olowola, included Dr. Jibril Abdulmalik, Founder and CEO, Mrs. Yetunde Enendu, Regional Coordinator I for the Abuja Region; and Dr. Chibuzo Anoje, Regional Coordinator II for Abuja. The initiative highlights the Foundation’s dedication to mental health reform and upholding the rights and dignity of those affected.
Mr. Meka Niyi Olowola appealed for Nigeria to adopt international standards for mental health stating that, “According to the World Health Organisation, one in every four persons is at risk of a mental disorder. We urge the government to take immediate action to decriminalise attempted suicide and implement the Mental Health Act. Decriminalising attempted suicide will enable Nigeria to join a host of nations that offer support instead of punishment for mental health issues.”
Mental health is a crucial component of our overall well-being, with profound implications. Approximately 50 million Nigerians are at risk of facing mental health challenges during their lifetimes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about one million lives are lost to suicide annually, equating to one death every 40 seconds. Despite these disturbing statistics, attempted suicide remains criminalised in Nigeria, resulting in up to one year of imprisonment for survivors.
“Mental health conditions, particularly depression, are the primary drivers behind the majority of attempted suicide cases, which has led to decriminalisation globally. Consequently, individuals who attempt suicide require compassionate care and treatment in a hospital setting, rather than criminal prosecution and imprisonment. Nigeria urgently needs to follow global trends and decriminalise attempted suicide to offer vital support and compassion,” Dr. Abdulmalik said.
The Attorney General, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, expressed his admiration for the Asido Foundation’s unwavering dedication to mental health advocacy and assured that the President Tinubu-led administration is resolutely committed to enhancing the nation’s healthcare system for the betterment of all citizens. He emphasised that the government eagerly welcomes and encourages constructive and collaborative engagements with the foundation to drive positive change.
“I intend to bring this matter to the attention of the State Attorneys-General at our upcoming meeting, where we will deliberate and take necessary action. Regarding the Mental Health Act, I am confident that my colleague, the Honourable Minister of Health, is already giving it due consideration. I will collaborate with him to ensure its successful implementation,” Fagbemi stated.
By advocating for mental health reform, Nigeria can diminish the stigma associated with mental illness, broaden access to mental health services, and enhance the overall quality of life. This will contribute to economic growth and affirm mental health as a fundamental human right.
The Asido Foundation calls on all stakeholders, including government bodies, mental health experts, the media, religious leaders, and the public, to unite in promoting mental health well-being. Together, we can challenge stigma, advocate for support and services, foster open discussions about mental health, and build a society where everyone can flourish.