NIMR DG asks Nigerians to understand importance of mental health

DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Yaba, Lagos State, Professor Babatunde Salako, has stressed the need for Nigerians to understand the importance of metal health, particularly because of its relevance to events of life, stress and emotional disturbances in life.

He declared the need for more Nigerians to be advocates for mental health, so that individuals facing emotional disturbances, anxiety and other mental health issues can be recognised and seek help when unable to cope.

Professor Salako, who was the chairman at the fourth Jemila Abubakar Essay Competition Award ceremony of the Asido Foundation, held at the International Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan, said mental health goes beyond people seeing doctors when they are physically sick because, in its extreme forms, it could become psychological and psychotic-related issues.

According to him, “many people are not aware of mental health issues; they only see those who roam the streets, but those whose responses to events of life sometimes put them on the edge and they suffer emotional disturbances are not seen or known to the general public.

“There are so many issues of mental health that need to be seen and prevented before they go beyond the level where they start to manifest symptoms. So if awareness is created and a lot more people become advocates, then they will know that all those little things that they don’t consider important should take them to the hospital earlier than before for care.”

Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Kayode Adebowale, represented at the competition award ceremony by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Professor Aderonke Baiyeroju, had said the university has established a student mental health committee, to prepare a university mental health policy and its implementation plan, given its realisation of the importance of mental health.

“Prioritising youth mental health within the university community in Nigeria is essential for fostering academic success, personal development, social integration, and overall wellbeing among young people. We are committed to this ideal and we strive to empower our students to lead healthy and fulfilling lives during and beyond their time with us at the university,” he said.

In a keynote address, a former lawmaker who represented Afijio state constituency of Oyo State, Mr Seyi Adisa, maintained that the solution to mental health issues should be a collective one, lauding the convener of the Asido Foundation’s gesture to build advocates for mental health through the annual Jemila Abubakar Essay Competition.

“I think there is a need for more advocacy and more awareness about mental health, especially at workplaces, where ignorance has played a big part. There is a lot of work in our hands to direct how people see mental health,” he said.

Founder of the Asido Foundation, Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, said the annual Jemila Abubakar Essay Competition among undergraduates in Nigeria’s universities is the foundation’s way of keeping the memory of its first programme manager alive, so that young people could draw inspiration from her story and promote mental health across the country.

He stated that the capacity of the top 15 winners of the competition will further be built to ensure they become mental health champions themselves.

On the occasion, many dignitaries were made speech ambassadors, patrons and ambassadors for the foundation and mental health advocacy, including Dr Zahra Parker, Dr Chinonso Egemba, Alhaji Lanre Adisa, Professor Nike Grange, Professor Olutoyin Ogunkunle and Dr Ibrahim Olaifa, among others.

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