May 7, 2020

Ministry launches ‘I CHOOSE LIFE’ campaign, supports youth against substance abuse

Sunday Dare

The Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports is set to launch its “I Choose Life” campaign to address the mental and emotional pressures that could lure Nigerian youth into substance abuse on account of the preventive measures associated with containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The isolation and anxiety prompted by the pandemic may result in relapses, accidental overdoses and problematic substance use even by young people who never had issues before. Deeply concerned about consequential socioeconomic hardship that may follow on the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of young Nigerians, the Ministry is launching the campaign to support young people in making healthy lifestyle choices by avoiding abuse of drugs and illegal substances.

According to a statement by the Minister, Mr. Sunday Dare, “The past few weeks have been extremely disruptive for most of us. We have all taken a hit in one way or the other. Our traditional lifestyle is predominantly community-oriented. Youth are at the stage of their lives where schooling, socialising, entertainment, sports and relaxation form a part of their daily routine and are at the core of the expression of their youthfulness.

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“In the past few weeks and in the next few months it seems that routine is being defined not by their choice but by the realities of a pandemic that is ravaging the world until a solution is found. I have spoken to many young people and feel their pain and the toll it is taking on their mental wellness.

For many, there is boredom, a sense of anxiety, hopelessness and uncertainty for the future. The usual outlets to let off stress and steam have been disrupted and it gives a sense of gloom. I am quite concerned about the effect on the mental, physical and emotional well-being of our young people at this time.

“If there is one lesson that we all agree has come out of the last few weeks, it is the fact that we value life. The whole world is now focused on protecting citizens from COVID-19. So, if we do value our lives, we must place a premium on the quality of it. The campaign is to support our young people as much as possible to go through this period and come out of it stronger and healthier.

“All over the world, young Nigerians are easily recognised as some of the smartest and hardworking set of individuals. Sports, entertainment, intellectual geniuses abound amongst the Nigerian youth of today. Our goal is to support them with messages, information and activities that empower them to choose Life above drugs, illegal substances and depression,” the Minister said.

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The goal of the ‘I Choose Life, Say No to Drugs Campaign’ is to educate and enable Nigeria’s youth to reject illicit drugs. This goal includes preventing drug use and encouraging occasional users to discontinue use. The evidence proves that the earlier children start to experiment with drugs, the more likely they are to develop drug dependence later in life.

As such, the campaign’s primary prevention efforts will address all young people as well as the adults who influence them. There is convincing evidence that carefully planned mass media campaigns can reduce substance abuse by countering false perceptions that drug use is normative and by influencing personal beliefs that motivate drug use.

The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports is partnering other organisations to ensure that the media programmes complement other community and school-based anti-drug programs, when consistent messages are conveyed through a variety of channels and in several different contexts.