IDEVAW 2021: MAMA Centre As Alarmed By Rising Cases Of Mental Health Disorders Among Nigerian Girls
The Mothers And Marginalised Advocacy Centre (MAMA Centre) commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) 2021 themed “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”
We recognise Gender-based Violence as the impact of unchecked socio-economic, cultural and political, discrimination perpetrated daily against women and girls in all of their diversity in Nigeria.
While we receive regular reports of all forms of abuse, violation, harassment and degrading treatment levelled against women and girl child across the country, we observed that the nationwide lockdown necessitated by Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 had disproportionately triggered dreaded impact of Gender-based Violence largely felt by women and girls at all levels.
We on this Day articulate the outcome of our research that the raising but unattended ‘Mental Health Disorders’ taking a toll on Nigerian women and girls, constitutes a major indicator of impact of Gender-based Violence amplified by Covid-19 pandemic.
We gathered that mental health disorders are common in adolescents, with approximately one in five experiencing some form of emotional disorder. This corroborates the earlier report by United States National Comorbidity Survey Replication, revealing that 50% of all lifelong mental health disorders start by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
Just as we observed high levels of ignorance about mental illness and negative attitudes towards individuals with mental health disorders in Nigeria.
With a population of about 200 million, World Health Organisation in 2016 estimates that as much as 40% of Nigerians suffer from a mental illness. This data is supported by a report from the Centre for Disease Control in 2018 that more than 55 million people are dealing with mental illness with little or no help.
Similarly, in 2002 report, WHO observes that 80 to 100% of suicide cases has mental conditions, while subsequent report reveals that Nigeria has the highest suicidal rate among African countries, with over 17,000 lives lost to suicide in 2016. WHO ranks suicide the second leading cause of death among young people aged between 15 and 29 years, after road injury; and the second biggest killer among teenage girls aged 15 to 19, after maternal conditions. In teenage boys, suicide ranked third behind road injury and interpersonal violence.
Meanwhile, physical and psycho-emotional abuse in different settings like home and school are known to manifest as anxiety disorders and depression among adolescents and youths. This in Nigeria has been strongly linked to depression and drug abuse.
We confirmed that while the rate of mental health disorders among Secondary School students is on the increase, the Nigerian school system has always focused attention mainly on nurturing students to pass exams with little consideration for students’ psycho-emotional needs and challenges. This is coupled with the extreme difficulty associated with management of students by classes’ teachers in schools, where the teacher-to-student ratio is estimated at 1:40. This further puts individualized care for the students, who were challenged daily by a multitude of psychological and socioeconomic stressors, in great danger.
We on this note unveil our advocacy and reiterate support for mental health literacy as foundational for mental health promotion, prevention, stigma reduction, and care at all levels.
We advocate mainstreamed awareness programs and targeted advocacy to the legislative and policy realms for policy formulation and translation into legislation for successful application of a school-based mental health literacy curricula to build teacher’s capacity on mental health literacy and improve mental health outcomes for the students.
MAMA Centre is hopeful that having in place enabling legislation that mainstreams mental health literacy into school curriculum will produce an effective and sustainable way for increased awareness, improved knowledge, decreased stigma and positive help-seeking efficacy.
Executive Director, MAMA Centre