Nigeria's mental health and substance abuse bill 2019: Analysis of its compliance with the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

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Countries are struggling with reconciling their national mental health legislation with the CRPD approach, which stresses equality as the focal point of legislation, policies, and practices that affect people with disabilities. Several failed attempts have been made over the last two decades to update Nigeria's obsolete mental health legislation. The most recent attempt is the Mental Health and Substance abuse Bill 2019, which aims to protect the rights of people with mental health needs. It addresses many areas neglected by previous bills, such as non-discrimination of people with mental and substance use problems in the exercise of their civil, political, economic, social, full employment, religious, educational, and cultural rights. It categorically prohibits the use of seclusion in the treatment of people with mental health problems, makes provision for service users to be members of the Mental health review tribunal and allows for the protection of privacy and confidentiality of information about people with mental health problems. While keeping to most of WHO's recommendations for mental health legislation, the bill diverges from the CRPD's recommendations by allowing forced admission and treatment based on mental capacity, substitute decision-making by legal representatives or closest relatives, and non-prohibition of coercive practices. The bill does not make provisions for advance directives and is silent on informed consent to participate in research. Despite the bill's deficiencies, it would be a significant step forward for the country, whose current mental health legislation is the Lunacy Act of 1958. Although the CRPD has left it unclear how countries, especially low resource countries, should go about creating a workable legal framework, it is clear that all countries are expected to join the current global effort to eliminate, or at least reduce to the barest minimum, the use of coercion in mental health care. We expect that future revisions of this bill will examine its limitations in light of Nigeria's socio-cultural context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101817
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • Coercion
  • Human rights
  • Mental health legislation
  • Nigeria


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