On February 26, 2016, Nigeria Health Watch will partner with Asktoks.com at a Masterclass during this year’s Social Media Week Lagos, to provoke rigorous discussion on the challenges in mental health attitudes and services in Nigeria.
Over 64 million Nigerians suffer from some form of mental illness. In a world increasingly infiltrated with increased levels of negative stress, images of war, terror, death and destruction, it’s important to think about how the mind processes information and how mental health can be affected by external factors. It is also important to debunk the many prejudices and misconceptions that surround mental illness and mental healthcare in Nigeria.
During a recent Webinar on mental health in Nigeria, hosted by the Public Health Foundation of Nigeria, Prof. Oye Gureje, Professor of Psychiatry and Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, Neuroscience, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, University of Ibadan, pointed out that “40% of Nigerians believe mental illness is due to supernatural causes, possession by evil spirits and punishment by God. 30% believe in religio-magical cure for mental illness.” A 2006 study on the mental health system in Nigeria reported that “There is considerable neglect of mental health issues in the country. The existing Mental Health Policy document in Nigeria was formulated in 1991.It was the first policy addressing mental health issues and its components include advocacy, promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. Since its formulation, no revision has taken place and no formal assessment of how much it has been implemented has been conducted.”
The Master Class will have experts from both the medical and religious communities to challenge some of these ingrained perceptions. The experts will discuss topics such as local attitudes towards mental health issues, current misconceptions, and how perceptions of mental illness can be changed to lead to a healthier Nigeria. The course will highlight modern innovations in mental healthcare, including the practice of mental fitness, and positive psychology for safeguarding the minds of our children. It will also include tips on how to use social media and other digital tools to research for valuable help and resources about mental health online.
Experts on the panel will include Dr. Yinka Atilola, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and lecturer at Lagos State University College of Medicine. He has extensive experience providing mental health services to children and adolescents in Nigeria; Ms. Toks Bakare, Founder of asktoks.com, and a UK-trained Behaviour Analyst who has over a decade of experience in the field of developmental psychology. She consults with Nigerian organisations in Lagos and Abuja in an effort to bring Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) treatment services to the health sector; Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAFRIC, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development.
Bakare, who moved back to Nigeria in 2014, said “We are super excited about this masterclass because for the first time in Social Media Week Lagos history we are plunging into the worlds of science and religion and bringing two historically juxtaposed paradigms together on the topic of mental health. Traditionally, Social Media week involves the sharing of ideas of how social media and technology are changing our businesses, society and culture. However, we want to look at how they are changing us as individuals. Now is the time to give our audience the power to understand and take control over their minds in order to improve their mental health.”
The Mental Health Masterclass will take place during the popular Social Media Week Lagos, which holds this year at The Landmark Convention Centre, Oniru, Lagos. Obi Asika, Co-Founder and Chairman of the annual event, said “SocialMediaWeek Lagos not only encourages connections, it drives conversation. With over 200 speakers and events year on year it represents the largest mind-share and thought leadership platform in Nigeria if not Africa. In the past few years we have seen that the week always touches on life and society in a very real way, especially on how new media and technology are changing the way we manage our lives.”
He emphasized the importance of having a conversation about mental health as part of Social Media Week. “I am sure that bringing the very important issues concerning Mental Health to SMWLagos and some of the deep underlying taboos will open up the area and enable people to have important conversations and learn from each other,” he said.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu pointed out that this Masterclass is timely and necessary because, “Of all the challenges in the Nigerian health sector, mental health is probably the least acknowledged, despite evidence showing that one in four of us will develop a mental or behavioral disorder at some point during our lives. Like ostriches, it is often easier to hide our heads in the sand and hope that the challenges will disappear. It is now time to hold our heads high and come out of the closet.”
So come prepared with questions for our experts. Because when you think about it, how well do you really know your mind?