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Govt Will Use Mental Health Bill to Target Critics - Stella Nyanzi :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Govt Will Use Mental Health Bill to Target Critics - Stella Nyanzi

Controversial Makerere University researcher, Dr Stella Nyanzi, has called for careful consideration of the Mental Health Bill 2014, saying the bill could be used to target Ugandans over claims that they are mentally ill.
Dr Stella Nyanzi

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Controversial Makerere University researcher, Dr Stella Nyanzi, has called for careful consideration of the Mental Health Bill 2014, saying the bill could be used to target Ugandans  over claims that they are mentally ill.

The Bill which was first tabled in 2004 intends to “provide for care and treatment for persons with mental illness, at primary health centres and ensure that persons with mental illness are enabled to seek treatment voluntarily.” Currently it is before the Parliamentary committee on health which is interfacing with members of the public.

While appearing before the committee today on Wednesday, Dr Nyanzi said that whereas it is long overdue for government to consider this Bill, certain clauses in the bill are dangerous and might be misused.

She cited clause 10(2) of the Bill which states that “where a police officer who arrests a person for a criminal act has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person arrested has a mental illness, he or she shall keep the person in custody and take them for treatment.”

Nyanzi says that this particular clause is irrelevant and aimed at targeting opposition members and Government critics by arresting them on pretext that they are mentally ill.

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She says she was diagnosed as a mentally ill person by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Police and yet they are not experts on this. She says Opposition figures like Dr. Kizza Besigye and Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago among others could be subjected to this unrealistic clause.

She said the bill has been long overdue, but careful consideration has to be given to it.

While appearingbefore the committeelast year, Sarah Opendi ,the State Minister of Health, defended the Bill saying it will ensure that persons with mental illness are enabled to seek treatment voluntarily and ensure their safety and protection of their rights.

Opendi also noted that the Bill is to ensure safety of the people who come into contact with persons with mental illness and also establish the Mental Health Advisory Board. 

The principles of the Mental Health Bill were presented before cabinet in 2008 before the Bill was tabled in the Ninth Parliament. It was, however, not handled until the Tenth Parliament picked it up.  

The Bill seeks to operationalise the National Health Policy which identifies mental health services as an essential aspect of health care. 

The Bill indicates gaps in the 1964 Mental Treatment Act saying it is outdated and does not take into account the discovery of medicines and other treatment interventions that have revolutionised the care of persons with mental disorders.

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