‘Nigerian students have one of the highest rates of suicidal thoughts, attempts globally’

Director, Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH), Professor Olayinka Omigbodun has said that Nigerian students have one of the highest rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts globally.

Professor Omigbodun, Head, Department of Psychiatry, University College Hospital, spoke at the media briefing to herald activities the centre’s activities to mark the Day of the African Child. Its theme was ‘School health and Wellbeing.’

Omigbogun, a consultant psychiatrist said that 50 per cent of mental disorders have their onset before the age of 14 years, saying that it a period when critical growth and development occurs.

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According to him, “The results of several needs assessment reveal a huge burden of health concerns within schools in Nigeria.

“A couple of years ago, our research team went into 22 rural and urban schools in Ibadan and studied about 2000 in-school adolescents.

“We have found that one in five of these students in our study reported thoughts of suicide while one in 10 said that they had attempted suicide in the last one year.

“We found that adolescents who came from unstable homes had higher rates of suicides and adolescents who were exposed to sexual abuse, physical attacks, physical fights and bullying at school were more likely to report attempting suicide”.

The director also noted that one in five of adolescents school use psychoactive substances which are more likely to cause depression and conduct disorder among other mental health problems.

Omigbogun called on government at all levels and private school owners to invest in sustainable school health and wellbeing programmes saying that school forms an integral part of children and adolescents mental health and wellness.

“Our children’s mental health is our nation’s future well-being. Despite the presence of a school health policy and programme in Nigeria, many students are not enjoying good health and wellbeing within their schools.

“In primary schools we found up to eight per cent of children had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a mental health condition characterised by inability to sustain attention and regulate one’s activity level.”

According to her paying attention to school health and well-being programme will increase school enrollment and reduce the rate of out of school children.

“Schools are the most productive and less stigmatising platforms for providing health services for children. This is because schools are tailored to learning and development and this makes them a natural context for prevention and intervention.”

In her remarks, the Director of the Vale College, Mrs Funso Adegbola, called on private school owners to invest in school mental health services.

Adegbola, who is a lawyer, said that funding mental health programmes for adolescent and children to enable the children to live up to their maximum potential while learning in safe and healthy environments.

According to her, factors that create mental health needs, including problem at home, hunger, depression, anxiety and negative peer influence, are becoming increasingly common.