Artist marks World Mental Health Day, launches fellowship

ARTIST Kunle Adewale broke further ground in his fusion of art with health on October 10, launching Nigeria’s first-ever mental health fellowship.

The artist, who had instituted the ‘Art for Brain Health’ initiative earlier in September to commemorate World Alzheimer’s Day, marked the 2021 World Mental Health Day with the launch. It featured musical performances and poetry renditions and had ‘Raising Community Champions: The Roles of Youth in Mental Health Advocacy, Education and Engagement’ as the theme.

A virtual creativity challenge to create awareness about mental health was in the mix, with participants exploring art forms including drawing, painting, mixed media, spoken word poetry, documentary and short film. 19- year- old Oluwapelumi Adenowo, a student of Physiology at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, emerged the winner and received a total sum of N100,000 in cash and gift prizes.

Welcoming guests, Adewale highlighted the fellowship’s goals: “This program 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.”

He added that through the initiative, “we aspire to amplify the voices of the youths at local, national, and global arena through collaboration with the relevant government agencies, NGOs, faith-based organizations, civil societies and diplomatic missions among others.”

In her opening remarks, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate Lagos, Jennifer Foltz, commended Adewale’s innovative enterprise. “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 added. Foltz further noted that the fellowship directly supports one of the U.S. Mission’s aims: good health for the population.

Keynote speaker, Dr Maymunah Kadiri, explained that half of the mental health illnesses commence before 14 and two-thirds before 24. She also noted the inequalities in access to mental health services and why youth must be involved.

She said, “The vibrancy and the resilience of the youths will enable them to take on mental health problems in the society.”

The keynoter also advised that youths get a safe platform to share their experiences, be incentivized to tackle health challenges like drug abuse and suicide and enlist influencers to start a mental health discussion and trends.

A panel comprising National Director, Suicide Research and Preventive Initiative/Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Raphael Ogbolu, Chief Consultant Psychiatrist/Public Health Physician, Dr Mashudat Bello-Mojeed, Art therapist/Psychotherapist, Victoria Ashadu, and founder of Empathy Space, NG, Dr Kafayat later happened. The panel discussed ‘Mental Health in an unequal world.’

Other highlights of the event include musical renditions by Sinmidele and Peter Oluwadare and the unveiling of the fellowship’s faculty drawn from social development, education, neuroscience, psychiatry, public health, creative arts, art therapy, media and communications.

The 10-week hybrid mental health educational program curriculum includes emotional intelligence, stress management, leveraging digital technology and arts for mental health, among others.

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