Day Corona tackled child’s mental health, depression – The Nation Newspaper

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Mental health has been identified as a condition that can interfere with a child’s ability to function well. In  response to the alarming  rate at which teenage depression, suicide, and substance abuse is increasing in Nigeria, the Corona Schools’ Trust Council organised a one-day symposium to address. CHINAKA OKORO reports. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), half of all mental illnesses begin at the age of 14 and three-quarter of this number occur in the mid-20. This statistics reveals that most of the mental cases experienced in children began at an early age. However, 70% of children and young people who experience mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions sufficiently, at least at the early age, the development that eventually prevent them from the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into healthy adults. As part of its corporate social responsibilities, and in line with the Corona Schools Trust’s core value of providing service to the community, a one-day free symposium on mental health awareness for parents, teachers and school management was held at Tafawa Balewa Square Auditorium, Lagos on Saturday, March 23. The well-attended event led by the CEO of Corona School’s Trust Council, Mrs. Adeyoyin Adesina brought together experts who highlighted some factors militating against child’s mental health. In its first edition, topics such as how to raise a total child devoid of depression and suicidal thoughts, child abuse and personality disorder, building a child’s self-esteem, revealing the secret signs of hidden depression and proffering solutions to post-trauma stress disorder, were discussed. In her welcome address, Adesina said: “Lending our voice to this growing global menace militating against child’s mental health became imperative especially in our environment where such developments are often swept under the carpet, where information on mental health service is lacking and there is considerable neglect of mental health issues. “The statistics of young people recorded annually to be suffering from depression, suicide, sex, child and substance abuse is heart-breaking. Mental health issues have become more disastrous than sicknesses such as diabetes, asthma, cancer and even HIV. “It is a reality that mental illnesses cost families, communities and our nation much in terms lives. This is the time for parents, teachers and caregivers to be more sensitive and deliberate about moulding the next generation and be well knowledgeable to do it the right way because times are changing. “The parenting methods that worked in the past may no longer be effective in this era. More so, the level of exposure of our youths and children to substance, physical and emotional abuse has grown exponentially. We need to be equipped with the right information to identify the signs, make a difference and a positive impact in the lives of these young ones, and even adults who are so affected.” On ‘ways to build a child’s self-esteem, one of the guest speakers and Psychotherapist, Gbemisola Ogunrinde said self-esteem issue is mental related.  According to her, it is when an individual sees himself or herself differently from who he or she thinks should be that it dawns on the individual that something is wrong. This is very common with children who lack the right upbringing. When we talk about mental illness, it can be attributed to several factors  and  ‘not spiritual’ as we always think in this part of the world. It could be genetic; mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have mental illness. Certain genes may increase one’s risk of developing a mental illness, and one’s life situation may trigger it., as a result of adverse childhood experiences, or exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness. Throwing more light on causes of low self-esteem, Ogunrinde said it can occur when a child is struggling academically without parental support. Children who do have a hard time in school in general, or even in a particular subject, who do not receive the help and support they need at school, or at home, are at a great risk of suffering from low self-esteem. This makes them feel like they cannot be successful, and that they are not smart or good at school. She added that “bullying is another issue that can start young, and lasts a lifetime. Children and teens who are bullied, teased, and put down, develop a negative self-image that can carry over into their adult lives. If parents, teachers, administrators, or a solid peer group does not step in to undo the damage that a bully is causing, the individual can hold on to this pain and negative self-image for a lifetime. But as parents and teachers, the bulk of the work is with us. “We should endeavour to pay attention to our children. Don’t be too busy not to have time for your child. Symptoms of low self-esteem include feeling hopeless or worthless, blaming oneself unfairly, hating oneself and worrying about being unable to do things, among others.” The only solution, Ogunrinde said, is  that “parents, teachers and guardians must teach children how  to like and value themselves, trust them to be able to make some decisions that affect their lives, recognise their strengths, help them to be able to try new or difficult things, show kindness towards themselves, move past mistakes without blaming themselves unfairly, help them believe they matter and are good enough and deserve happiness.” Speaking on how to raise a total child devoid of depression and suicidal thoughts’, Mental Health Physician and Advocate, Dr. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri first debunked the notion that children can’t get depressed, even as he said  mental illness in children is real, but manageable. “People often believe that children can’t get depressed, but forget that depression is not bound by age, colour or race. Although, depression could be hereditary, it often times, caused by several incidences occurring in the child that he is bottling up; especially when the parents are not there for him or her. “As a parent, you must note that your biggest asset in life is your children, hence you must intentionally connect with them. Because it is only when you connect with them that you will notice decline in school performance, their poor grades despite strong efforts, constant worry or anxiety, repeated refusal to take part in normal activities they used to enjoy doing before, hyperactivity or fidgeting, persistent nightmares, persistent disobedience or aggression, frequent temper tantrums, sadness or irritability which are all signs of depression in children. They could even take to alcohol and drug abuse, have sleep disorder or often lose appetite even for favourite foods. “Parents, do not be shy to seek help from specialist once any of these signs are noticed. Then try and engage with your child a lot. Listen to them without being eager to respond. Hear all they have to say, and know that, the mind of a child is more fragile than that of an adult. They pay attention to everything, especially how you treat them and attend to their calls.” The Director of Education CSTC, Mrs. Amelia Dafeta said: ”The Corona Trust Council decided to lend a voice to the issue of mental health having noticed the rate at which the ailment is growing as you sometimes hear of children committing suicide. Hence, we decided to contribute our own quota to the society by raising awareness about this and creating the consciousness in parents and teachers to pay attention to their children.” Commenting on the significance of the event, Principal, Corona Secondary School, Mrs. Chinedum Oluwadamilola noted that “the event is a wake-up call to parents to take their mental health and that of their child seriously”, as a stitch in time saves nine. Also speaking about the continuity of the event, Mrs. Adesina said: “As you know, Corona is the best and always stand for the best. This is the first edition. Hopefully, we would be replicating this in subsequent years and definitely on a bigger scale.”
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