Mental health: Don't take communication with youths for granted ― WAITT

By Prisca Sam-Duru

To commemorate this year’s World Mental Health Day held globally on October 10, 2021, Kunle Adewale, a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at the University of California San Francisco, launched the first-ever Mental Health Fellowship in Nigeria.

Themed “Raising Community Champions: The Roles of Youth in Mental Health Advocacy, Education and Engagement”, the inauguration of the Fellowship held virtually on October 10, 2021, by the Mandela Washington Fellow, Kunle Adewale and his team of youths.

Welcoming the over one hundred participants to the health event, Adewale described the Mental Health Fellowship as an initiative driven by young people for young people and the next generation. The program he noted, “Aims to provide an incredible network and professional development opportunities for young people where they can be inspired and inspire one another through peer mentoring and collective community projects on mental health education, advocacy and engagements.” 

Adewale added that “Through the Mental Health Fellowship, we aspire to amplify the voices of the youths at local, national, and global arena; doing this through collaboration with the relevant government agencies, NGOs, faith-based organizations, civil societies, Diplomatic Missions among many others”. 

In her opening remarks, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate Lagos, Jennifer Foltz, who commended the founder of Mental Health Fellowship, Nigeria, Kunle Adewale for his work so far, encouraged him to keep inspiring and creating an impact in Nigerian society. 

Her words: “Kunle is a 2015 Mandela Washington fellowship alumnus and one of the most active alumni. This year alone, he has launched no less than three different projects. Originally an artist, he has made a far-reaching foray into the field of medicine and has made a tremendous impact with all of his initiatives.”

 She further stated that the fellowship is directly supporting one of the aims of the U.S. Mission which is good health for the population, while applauding Adewale for being an excellent alumnus who is contributing positively to Nigerian society. 

In her detailed and inspiring Keynote Speech, Dr. Maymunah Kadiri, the Leading and Vital Voice for Mental Health in Africa/Consultant Neuropsychiatrist and Psychotherapist, disclosed that according to the World Health Organization, half of the mental health illnesses commence before the age of 14, and two-thirds, before the age of 24. “Even though we have a global pandemic, increase in mental health issues is a pandemic within the pandemic”, she stated. 

She highlighted the sad fact that “75-90% of people in low and middle-income countries are unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high-income countries isn’t any better.”

Stigma is a factor that affects the mental health of people with mental health challenges and it also affects their educational opportunities, current, and future earnings, job prospects as well as their family and loved ones.” 

READ ALSO: Mental health fellowship births in Nigeria

Dr Kadiri explained that the 2021 Mental Health Day theme- ‘Mental Health In An Unequal World’, serves to help focus on the issues that perpetuate mental health inequalities locally and globally, stressing that this is where the role of youths comes in since they are the most affected population. “The vibrancy and the resilience of the youths will enable them to take on mental health problems in the society”, she said. 

Highlights of the event which was anchored by members of the fellowship; Franca Ebomah and Esther Ehindero, included launch of a Creativity Challenge via the social media to create awareness in Nigeria. Participants during the competition, explored different art forms such as drawing, painting, mixed media, Spoken Word Poetry, Documentary and Short film. Nineteen-year-old Miss Oluwapelumi Adenowo, an undergraduate student of Physiology, Olabisi Onabanjo University, who emerged winner, received a total sum of 100,000 naira cash and gifts. The event also featured a panel discussion on ‘Mental Health In An Unequal World’, featuring mental health experts as panellists.

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