The National Mental Health Act 2023: Redefining Healthcare Standards and Societal Treatment for Mental Ill-Health.


The Mental Health Act, which repealed the Lunacy Act of 1958, was signed into law on 5th January 2023.[1] Throughout this Act, we witness the drive towards empathy for persons with mental disorders and care for the total man. This Act is a significant legal reform of the framework for mental healthcare services and substance abuse care in Nigeria, while also delving into the manner in which the larger society deals with mental ill-health.

Given the large number of persons with varying degrees of mental disorders in Nigeria,[2] it has become imperative that health workers and institutions (whether treating mental ill-health or treating other medical conditions in a mentally ill person) as well as the general populace, keep abreast of this law. As the Act provides steep penalties for actions which are commonly considered to be part of the treatment protocol of the mentally ill in Nigeria, it is imperative that these provisions are not overlooked.

In this article, we would briefly review the path to the current mental health legislation and then enumerate some of the key provisions of the Act; throughout these discussions, we shall highlight some of the adjustments that individuals and organizations must make in dealing with persons with mental ill-health.

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[1] Cap. 112
[2] The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 20% of Nigerians, or around 40 million people, are affected by mental ill-health. Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.