ACCORDING to WHO, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds and 78% of global suicide occurs in low and middle income countries of which Nigeria is one.
Every 1st of march, the world recognizes, Self-injury Awareness Day ( SIAD ) ,also known as Self-Harm Awareness Day. Self Injury Awareness Day is an annual global awareness event / campaign that allow some people choose to be more open about their own self-harm , and awareness organizations make special efforts to raise awareness about self-harm and self-injury.
They also report that “most young people who self harm do so in response to intense emotional pain or a sense of being overwhelmed by negative feelings, thoughts or memories”.
Depression and self-harm often go hand-in-hand, though there are many other reasons people self-harm. As many as two million Americans currently engage in self-harm, with methods like cutting, scratching, bruising and hitting themselves, along with other more harmful methods. It’s said that these behaviors promote feelings of control and help relieve tension, while helping the person express their emotions and escape the numbness that accompanies depression.
According to WHO, “half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but in most cases go undetected and untreated”.
Life events such as job loss, bereavement, change of schools, communal strife and conflict, incarceration, and illegal migration, among others negatively impacts the mental health of young persons. Drug abuse and the wide spread inappropriate use of technological devices also negatively impacts the mental health of young persons. Illicit drug use among young persons lead to risky behaviours such as unsafe sex, dangerous driving, suicide, etc.
SIAD was created to spread awareness and understanding of self-injury, which is often misrepresented and misunderstood in the mainstream. Those who self-harm are often left feeling alone and afraid to reach out for help because they fear they’ll be seen as “crazy.
Early intervention services for young persons who develop mental illness should be made accessible. Seamless linkage with services should also be provided as they become adults.
Majority of the institutions that provide professional mental health care services in Nigeria are located in the urban areas and young persons with mental illness residing in rural areas have to overcome some logistic challenge before they present in such institutions for treatment.
For the records, payment for mental health care services in Nigeria is still largely by direct out of pocket payment. Only very few Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) exist to crusade for improved care of mentally ill young persons in Nigeria.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in its constitution defined health as follows; “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. WHO further defines mental health as a “State of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”. From the foregoing it is obvious that there can be no health without good mental health. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended guarantees the right to health for its citizens.
Another unsavory report is the poor budgetary allocation to mental health care in Nigeria. WHO posits that low income countries like Nigeria invest less than 1% of their health budget on mental healthcare.
Giving effect to the spirit and letter of Primary Health Care that incorporates mental health as its ninth component will improve access to mental health care for all and reduce the stigma associated with the illness.
Lagos State and few other states in Nigeria are blazing the trail by making mental health care services available at the Primary Health Care level. Other States should take a cue from them. Government needs to exercise the political will to ensure that the Mental Health bill is enacted. WHO avers that Mental Health Legislation serves as a key component of good governance, especially concerning issues related to protection of the human rights of the mentally ill, involuntary admission, professional training for mental health workers and the framework for service delivery.
The Federal Ministry of Health should conceptualize culturally appropriate and evidence based strategies for identification of issues that constitute a challenge to the mental health of young persons in Nigeria.
Such strategies should be multidisciplinary and multisectoral. The teacher training curricula in Nigeria should be redesigned to enable teachers to identify early signs of mental illness in students who are young persons.
In conclusion government, nongovernmental organizations, community based organizations and religious organizations have a role to play in ensuring that the population of young person’s ready to take over as leaders at different levels and tiers of government in Nigeria is not compromised by the burden of mental illness amongst young persons in Nigeria.
In an interview, a lot of Nigerians feel that depression has not been taken seriously. Anayo Patrick, a civil servant said, ” although our suicide rate is not that appalling compared to other civilized countries, but a lot of people leave with depression, which we have not taken seriously in this country”.
Mrs Bejide Beatrice, a student said that enough counseling centers should be set up especially for children.