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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 110-116

Knowledge of mental health law and attitude toward mental illness among attorneys in Nigeria


1 Clinical Services, Forensic Unit, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Uselu, Benin City, Nigeria
2 Mental Health In-reach Team, HMP Elmey and Burgess Ward, Bracton Centre, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, Dartford Kent, England, United Kingdom
3 Clinical Services, Forensic Unit, Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, Nigeria
4 Older People's Health and Ageing, Northwick Park Hospital, Central and Northwest London NHS Foundation Trust, London, England, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Oluyemi O Akanni
Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Benin City, Edo State
Nigeria
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/SHB.SHB_24_20

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Introduction: There are legal provisions for the protection of those who are mentally ill, and law officers may have a role in this regard. Few, if any studies have attempted to investigate the knowledge about and attitude towards mental illness among the members of the legal profession. Methods: This was a cross-sectional descriptive survey conducted among attorneys in Benin-City, Edo State, South-South, Nigeria, using a 21-item knowledge/attitude questionnaire. Results: Seventy-five attorneys who filled the questionnaire were in the age range of 23 and 65 years, with more males (69.3%), more married (60.8%), and more private defense attorneys (79.2%) participating. A greater proportion (64.8%) had not adjudicated for persons with mental illness, and a few (22.2%) would not agree to solicit for them. Only a few were accurate about when the Nigerian mental health law was enacted (9.3%), what it says about the treatment of the mentally ill persons (3.0%), and the handling of the property of the same (3.1%). Although only a minority (7.1%) were familiar with the provisions of the insanity defense under section 28 of the criminal code, most (85.9%) identified correctly the disposal of a mentally ill person found unfit to plead according to the criminal procedure act. Conclusion: Lawyers in the study appeared to have very little experiential knowledge about mental illness, demonstrated a poor level of knowledge regarding mental health laws as well as criminal provisions regarding mentally abnormal offenders. There is a need to improve training content in Legal education in Nigeria with regard to legislation affecting both civil and criminal aspects of mental disorder.


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