Members of PENPUSHING Media, an Online outfit has noted with dismay the sudden discovery of so-called rehabilitation centres in Kaduna, Katsina,Niger states and in Kwara State lately by the Nigeria Police.
The position of Penpushing Platform is contained in a communique issued and endorsed by the editorial board at the end of online debate on the matter.
Members on the platform in the course of discussing the development said it was disheartening that some of these centres operated under the guise of religious institutions and rehabilitation homes for mental health patients even when the operators were not qualified psychiatrists.
While commending the police force for their efforts in closing down these torture chambers, Penpushing platform asks that the police should ensure diligent prosecution of operators and those behind their operations.
It warned, however, that there might be more of such homes to be discovered and inmates waiting to be freed and so the police must not rest on their oars but continue investigations and double their efforts in freeing such people.
In the course of debating the issue, members of the Platform observed that if there are lacunas in our laws that encourage the operations of these centres, our lawmakers should fill them urgently while security agents must not fail in utilizing the existing laws in bringing perpetrators to book.
Penpushing platform further urges governments to provide hotlines for citizens to report operators of these torture chambers masquerading as rehabilitation homes for prompt attention.
But it recognized that our security agents cannot do it alone and so encouraged governments, particularly state and local governments to ensure that they resuscitate remand homes and juvenile correctional centres hitherto operating before which would serve as normal places for deviant children. We also advocate for massive recruitment of social welfare workers who are professionally placed to manage these homes. We are sure this would help in reducing the burden of parents and guardians who might not know how to handle their children and wards properly forcing them to seek succor in terrible places.
It is also our opinion that our governments must embark on massive awareness campaign to stop stigmatization of mental health issues while citizens need to pull the curtains wide on their mental health as well. The socio economic challenges that assailed us as citizens currently have long lasting effect on our mental health, which can lead to depression, hallucination, suicidal and maniacal thoughts, and other serious health challenges if not handled appropriately. We equally call on the National Assembly to pass the Mental Health Bill, which has been with them since 2018.
Our religious leaders too should be encouraged to know and accept that mental health challenges are better handled by professionals trained in the field and not left to prayers and sacrifices alone. We note, however, that our forefathers have traditional methods of dealing with mental health challenges and we urge the government to look for ways of synergizing these with orthodox medicine.
The Penpushing Platform members also encouraged parents to take their children to health institutions for medical attention and urged the people to contribute towards ending the menace by speaking out and informing the relevant authorities if they noticed such centres in their neighbourhood.