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NAS, Vitafoam hold roundtable on depression, suicide for children, women

.ask govt to initiate efforts to prevent depression, suicide
.call senate to pass mental health bill

By Ebunoluwa Sessou

Nigerian Academy of Science, NAS, has asked federal government to initiate efforts to preventing depression and suicide attempt in Nigeria, even as it calls on senate to pass the mental health bill.

The call was made during the media roundtable organised by NAS on ‘Depression and Suicide Prevention’ in partnership with Vitafoam Nigeria Plc recently.

Speaking duirng her presentation on “Depression and Suicide prevention”, Prof. Olayinka Omigbodun, Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, UCH, Ibadan said, the risk factor of depression in children co-morbid psychiatric disorder particularly anxiety,abuse and negect, child labour, physical, emotional, sexual abuse at home and school, negative parenting styles, rejection, lack of care, parental mental disorder, parent-child conflict, family, extended fostering, bullying, child and adolescent offenders, children in institutions, refugees and homeless.


The implication according to her, is that one out of five children presents with health issue hence, the association of psychiatries in Nigeria is currenting pushing a bill on mental health in the national assembly.

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“You cannot talk about proper prevention of depression and suicide in children if there is no proper policy. There is need to engage politicians on why they are supposed to pass the bill.

“We should have policy and legislation for our children to have access to quality health.  Our religious leaders should be involved in preventing mental health and depression. It is imporant to give talks and lectures on depresssion enlightenment”, she said

Explaining how depression is presented is children, she said, it varies from one child to another. “It is different from the normal “blues” and everyday emotions that occur as a child develops. When symptoms last and interfere with social activities, interests, schoolwork, and family life, the child may have depression. While depression is a serious illness, it also is a treatable one.

Depression in children can be caused by any combination of factors, including physical illness, stressful life events, environment including family problems, family history, alcohol or drug use”,she said.

She explained that, “Every child with depression may present with a unique set of symptoms including irritability, anger, persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities as well as from friends and family, increased sensitivity to rejection or criticism, changes in appetite, changes in sleep, crying or temper tantrums, difficulty concentrating and focusing, fatigue and low energy, physical complaints, such as stomach aches, headaches that do not respond to treatment, reduced ability to function during activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests,feelings of worthlessness or guilt, thoughts or talk of death or suicide”, she added.

According to her, not all depressed children will have all of these symptoms. In fact, most will have different symptoms at different times and in different settings. “Although some children may continue to function reasonably well in structured environments, most kids with significant depression will suffer a noticeable change in social activities, loss of interest in school and poor academic performance, or a change in appearance. Experimentation with drugs or alcohol may also be a sign of an underlying mental illness.

“Children with a family history of violence, alcohol abuse, or physical or sexual abuse are at greater risk for suicide, as are those with symptoms of depression.

Also speaking, a consultant Psychiatrist University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, Prof. Oye Gureje FAS disclosed that, it is the responsibility of the ministry of health to put a bill to the senate on issues regarding mental health without involving bribing.

He said, sadness, feeling down, having a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities are are symptoms familiar to people adding that if they persist and affect people’s lives, it may be depression.

“Depression seems to be more common among women than men. And symptoms include lack of joy and reduced interest in things that used to bring a person happiness.

Life events, such as bereavement, produce mood changes that can usually be distinguished from the features of depression.

“The causes of depression are not fully understood but are likely to be a complex combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychosocial factors”, he said.

He continued that, psycohological therapy is 70 percent, pharmacological and specialist care is 85 and 15 percent respectively are best ways of addressing depression.

He noted that, there is need to develop primary care system to develop ourselves. “Depression kills, increases the risk of coronary heart disease including angina and myocardinal infarction as well as stroke.

“About 800,000 commit sucide every year adding that more than 50 percent of these among people aged 15 and 44 years.  Adding that, recognition of the problem is best done early by the primary care practitioners”, he concluded.

However, the Company Secretary, Vitafoam Nigeria Plc, Mr. Olalekan Sanni, in his goodwill message said, the company decided to partner with NAS in order to give comfort to life.

“We are hoping that with the collaboration of the media, what we are advocating for would be achieved. We have lots of things that could lead to depression in Nigeria including the state of economy, bad roads among others.

“But, with this kind of this kind of forum, it will go along way to bring succour to people who are already in that state of mind so that we do not continue to have incidence of depression and suicide.

“With the partnership, we believe that the comfort of Nigerians will be upheld and I believe with the category of journalists present, the message will be well projected and it will go along way to ensure that objectives of the programme are fulfilled”, he said.

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