Parents, caregivers and stakeholders in education and mental health have made an urgent call for increased awareness about the mental state of young people especially teenagers.
This was the central subject at the Mental Wellness Initiative conference organised by Olashore International School in partnership with Lagos Business School (LBS).
The conference was to create awareness about mental wellness in teenage children and to help parents figure out how they can spot signs of emotional distress and be a source of strength for teenagers in such difficult periods.
Held at the Honeywell auditorium on LBS’ campus, the event opened with an opening remark delivered by LBS Dean, Dr Enase Okonedo who emphasised LBS’ commitment to the wellbeing of the human person.
Dr Okonedo said, “It is in our collective interest as schools and as a nation to work together to seek ways we can contribute to discussions of mental health. This way, we can produce well-rounded individuals who are prepared to be the leaders of tomorrow; and that was the incentive for Lagos Business School to partner with Olashore International School”.
Participants at the well-attended event shared emotional stories of mentally challenged students and children who have considered suicide. A teacher who sought help from other participants revealed that one of her students, a 7-year-old wrote a suicide note because she felt unloved by her parents.
Buttressing the narrative, founder of Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI), an NGO run by young Nigerians, Dr Victor Ugo disclosed that about 5,000 suicides have been prevented this year alone. According to him, “teenagers who want to end their lives do not write suicide notes in their diaries anymore. They now share it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter timelines”.
‘Denial’ was at the heart of the conversation as stakeholders concluded that parents and caregivers hardly ever come to terms with the mental state of their children and wards when they notice signs of emotional stress. They attributed the denial to social stereotypes and lack of awareness.
Award-winning physician and mental health advocate, Dr Maymunah Kadiri was the keynote speaker at the event. In her speech, Dr Kadiri highlighted another factor contributing to the mental health situation among teenagers as peer pressure. She said, “Peer pressure is the major challenge for teenagers, bullying can cause low self-esteem and. Children need parental love. This goes beyond providing fundamental clothing and shelter.; Be your child’s confidant, let them feel free to share their thoughts with you”.
In his contribution to the conversation, Principal, Rainbow College, Adeshina Okunubi said he has also had to come to the rescue of a suicidal student. For him, it is up to parents to communicate more with their children to easily discover and understand their unique needs.
The event came to a close with recommendations to all parties involved to reduce the pressure placed on children as regards academic success, to talk to children and know their friends and more importantly, to create even more awareness. Schools were especially advised to develop policies that will enhance mental wellness among their students.