The World Mental Health Day is celebrated globally and annually on the 10th of October to raise awareness on mental health issues, and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. This year, AIFA Reading Society joined the rest of the world to celebrate the ‘World Mental Health Day’ by partnering with Mental Health Foundation (MHF) and Mentally Aware Initiative (MANI) to educate the students of Covenant Hall School, Lekki on the relevant issues surrounding mental health especially amongst young people.

This year’s World Mental Health Day’s theme is ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated. The AIFA Reading Society understands the importance of mental health and believes that mental health is an important issue to all educators. Educators have recognized the impact of mental health on learning and achievement, and have concluded that there is need for a great deal of intervention by all stakeholders to lend a hand to students with mental health issues, and also promote the awareness of mental health to all. 

Mr. Zaccheaus Owolabi of MANI kicked off the session by educating the teachers and students of Covenant Hall Schools on mental health and the types of mental health issues, majorly depression, which affects adolescents. He stated that young people feel sad and worried about life events such as exams, fights with family or friends, changing schools or moving houses. He encouraged the students to always talk about how they feel with someone they know and trust such as parent, teacher, school counsellor, family member or friend.

Mr. Coker Olugbenga of MHF, a renowned clinical psychologist, presented a very riveting lecture on mental health and also highlighted the importance of mental wellness for teachers, he noted that happy teachers teach well and enable students to achieve good outcome. Mr. Olugbenga stressed the need for self-care and responsibility for one’s own mental health and wellness, with an emphasis on the fact that mental health is an integral part of complete wellness. He pointed out that the best way to deal with this stigma is through facts and better understanding of mental health problem.

Mr. Olugbenga advised on the importance of talking about mental health conditions. He stated that the first step of getting help is by starting a conversation. He also pointed out ways to overcome mild depression and anxiety which is mostly experienced by adolescents. The session was very interactive and students who acknowledged to having depression and anxiety tendencies were counselled by Mr. Olugbenga and representatives of the Society.

Researchers have found that reading a good book is one of the best ways to overcome mild depression. In this light, the Society presented fifty (50) copies of the book; ‘Season Crimson Blossoms’ by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim and ‘Makwala’ by E. E Sule (donated to the Society by Parresia Publishers) to teachers and final year students of Covenant Hall School to promote a good reading culture.

The Principal, Mrs. Fidelia Aire, commended the Society’s effort for encouraging discussions about mental health especially in a country where Stigma about mental illness seems to be widely endorsed. She added that observing mental health awareness day will help reduce or maybe one day eliminate the stigma that people with mental illness face. Mrs. Aire hopes that Mental Health Awareness will become an important part of school’s function and curriculum in Nigeria.

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