AHI, partners seek improved adolescent mental health

A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Action Health Incorporated (AHI), has stressed the need to break the silence and converse on the impact of mental health conditions, especially among young people.
Mrs Adenike Essiet, Executive Director, AHI, said this during the 28th Annual Teenage Festival of Life (TFL) on Saturday in Lagos.
TFL is a forum that enables young people and relevant stakeholders to identify the plights facing youths through artistic presentations with a view to enlisting them as critical stakeholders.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that TFL, organised by AHI, seeks to promote youth’s health and development toward their successful transition to adulthood.
The theme for the festival: “Mental Health: Adolescent and Young People Taking Action”.
Esiet noted that breaking the silence on mental health conditions would promote understanding, encourage help-seeking behaviour, and create a more supportive and informed society.
She said mental health remains a pressing issue in the country, with a significant portion of the population grappling with various mental health challenges.
Esiet said beyond the impact on health and well-being, mental health challenges had been associated with severe economic losses due to the high cost of treatment and impaired ability to work, especially among young people.
“For many young people coping with the transition from childhood to adolescence and adulthood carries much stressor that they are struggling to deal with and no one is talking about it.
“All the stigmatisation and discrimination pushes them further into their shell and they are not looking for help. So, it’s not much of a surprise that we’ve been hearing reports of young people commiting suicide, depressed, running away from home.
“This year, we decided to draw attention to it, have young people speak up for themselves, talk about their experiences, learn where to find help and help society destigmatise mental health issues.
Esiet recalled that the Mental Health Bill was passed into law in January 2023.
“The Act is a significant step forward for mental health in Nigeria as it seeks to promote and protect the lives of people suffering from mental illnesses and eradicate every form of stigmatisation and discrimination among them,” she said.
Also, Dr Abosede Akinpade, a clinical psychologist, noted that failing to address adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
Akinpade said exposure to adversity, pressure to conform with peers and exploration of identity, internet addiction were some factors that contribute to stress during adolescence.
She noted that a child needs love, affection, security and attention, stressing that a child that lacks these would have low self-esteem and seek validation from wrong people.
The psychologist disclosed that bipolar disorder was on the increase among adolescents and youths, stressing that such adolescents and their families should seek professional support to manage the condition.
Similarly, Dr Esther Somefun, Gender and Reproductive Health Analyst, UNFPA, said the agency was involved in strategies, programmes and tools to assist governments in responding to the health needs of adolescents.
Somefun noted that there was no health without mental health, saying it was central to human dignity, thus called for action to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
She also appealed to the governments and stakeholders to integrate mental health and psychosocial support across their efforts to enhance well-being and achieve sustainable development.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in seven (14 per cent) 10-19 year-old experience mental health conditions, globally.
WHO noted that in Nigeria, one in six young people, aged 15 to 24 are at risk of a mental issue with the most common issues being mood disorders (anxiety and depression), substance use disorder and suicide.

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