In a compelling address at the 28th edition of The Teenage Festival of Life (TFL) organized by Action Health Incorporated (AHI) at the Main Auditorium of the University of Lagos, Akoka, Dr. Uwemedimo Uko Esiet, Co-Founder/Director of AHI and a distinguished Public Health Physician and Development Entrepreneur, underscored the imperative of implementing the Child’s Rights Act and advocating for children’s mental health. Dr. Esiet, a prominent figure in public health, emphasized the prevailing mental health challenges in Nigeria, where a significant portion of the population grapples with diverse issues.
The Child’s Rights Act in Nigeria, enacted in 2003, represents a landmark legal framework aimed at safeguarding the well-being and rights of children within the country. This comprehensive legislation incorporates principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, providing a robust foundation for the protection of children from all forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The Act emphasizes fundamental rights such as education, healthcare, and a safe environment for every child, irrespective of gender or social background. Notably, it seeks to eradicate harmful practices like child marriage and child labour, recognizing the importance of fostering a nurturing and conducive atmosphere for the holistic development of Nigerian youth. The Child’s Rights Act stands as a crucial instrument in promoting a society where the rights and dignity of every child are upheld and protected.
Dr. Uko Esiet delves deeper than the legislation.
Beyond the call for the implementation of the Child’s Rights Act, he delved into the broader spectrum of children’s well-being, addressing aspects such as the parent-child relationship, menstrual education for girls, and the necessity for children to comprehend the various parts and functions of their bodies. The Teenage Festival of Life, a platform created by AHI, provided an opportunity for over 2,000 students from various schools within Lagos and its environs to engage in meaningful conversations about mental health.
Mrs. Nike Esiet, Co-founder and Executive Director of Action Health Incorporated, spoke passionately about the theme, “Mental Health: Adolescents and young people taking action.” She highlighted that mental health challenges not only impact individuals’ well-being but also lead to severe economic losses due to the high cost of treatment and impaired ability to work, particularly among young people. The significance of mental health came to the forefront as Funso Bukoye, the Programme Coordinator, addressed the audience on the topic, “Breaking the Silence: Empowering Minds to Promote Positive Mental Health.”
A global perspective on mental health in young people.
Bukoye shared a global perspective, revealing that an estimated one in seven 10-19 year-olds worldwide experiences a mental health condition. In Nigeria, the statistics are alarming, with one in six young people aged 15-24 at risk of mental health issues, including mood disorders, substance use disorders, and suicide. The discourse extended to the recent legislative developments in Nigeria, where in January 2023, the Mental Health Bill 2021 was passed into law. Mrs. Nike Esiet hailed this as a significant step forward for mental health in the country, as the new law aims to promote and protect the lives of individuals dealing with mental illnesses.
It also seeks to eradicate stigmatization and discrimination against them. Highlighting the proactive role of the Teenage Festival, Mrs. Esiet explained that the event provides a platform for young people from public secondary schools across Lagos State to contribute to the conversation on mental health. The festival leverages artistic performances such as music, poetry, and drama to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and enhance access to mental health care services. Finally, the 28th edition of The Teenage Festival of Life emerged not just as an event but as a pivotal milestone in the advocacy for children’s rights and mental health in Nigeria.
Recent mental health bill needs to be implemented.
Importantly, the doctor passionately emphasized the need to implement the recently passed Mental Health Bill 2021 in Nigeria. His call for action, echoed by other notable speakers at the 28th edition of The Teenage Festival of Life, shed light on the pressing mental health challenges faced by both the youth and the broader population. The discussions delved into the multifaceted aspects of mental well-being, emphasizing the significance of not only recognizing but also actively addressing these challenges. Their insights underscored the critical role of holistic well-being as an integral component for fostering a prosperous and resilient society.
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