Members of the 53rd Legislature yesterday passed a law to protect persons with mental disorders and/or persons with mental disabilities from discrimination, stigmatization, and marginalization on the basis of their mental or intellectual disability.
The law was forwarded to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for approval.
Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate amended the Public Health Law, Title 33, and Liberian Code of Laws Revised, which added Part VIII, Health and Related Rights, Chapter 2, Mental Health.
On Tuesday, May 23, the House unanimously concurred with the Senate, which the Upper House has since passed on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.
Accordingly, the Law gives equal access and right to healthcare for all persons, and persons with mental disorders and/or mental disabilities (crazy person/s) to also have a right to treatment of the same quality and standard as all other persons.
Also known as “the Mental Health Act,” the Law protects the property of persons with mental disorders and/or mental disabilities and provides and promotes mental health well-being, and care for all persons and the communities in which they reside, nationwide, for the full implementation of this Act.
This act is intended to “provide for and protect the civil, social and health rights of all persons with mental disorders and/or mental disabilities including persons with intellectual disabilities; promotes and regulates equitable and effective access to timely, appropriate and quality mental healthcare, treatment, habilitation and rehabilitation for all persons in the 15 counties, including those with mental disorders and/or mental disabilities; establish and enforce the responsibilities and obligations of the government in carrying out the duties set forth.”
The act further intends to “Support optimal well-being, independence and liberty of persons with mental disorders and/or mental disabilities, including persons who have committed crimes, within the bounds of the law’ promote mental health in society and establish oversight of mental healthcare through the Ministry of Health (MoH) and its mechanisms for health promotion and quality assurance; create a national advisory body on mental health and provide for related matters.
Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 46/119 on December 17, 1991, on the UN Principles for the protection of persons with mental illness and the improvement of Mental Healthcare.
These principles lay down provisions to promote the rights of mentally disabled persons in healthcare. There are specific provisions on informed consent, confidentiality, standard of care and treatment and the rights available to inmates of mental disability institutions. Principle 1(4) prohibits discrimination on the ground of mental disability.
It may be recalled that the director of Mental Health at the MoH, Angie Tarr Nyakon, told reporters that the passage of the Act will help improve the country’s mental health system to allow nearly all patients have access to mental health medication.
She stated that the law if approved will decrease the number of persons living with mental illness in the country.