CSTC fights against mental health issues in children
As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility and in line with the Corona Schools’ Trust Council (CSTC) core value of providing service to the community, a one-day free symposium on mental health awareness for parents, teachers and school management recently held at the Tafawa Balewa Square Auditorium, Lagos.
The well-attended event, led by the CEO of Corona Schools Trust Council, Mrs. Adeyoyin Adesina, paraded experts who highlighted some factors militating against children’s mental health. In its first edition, some topics discussed at the symposium include 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 and post-traumatic stress disorder.
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.
She added: “The statistics of young people recorded annually to be victims of depression, suicide, sex, child and substance abuse is heartbreaking. Mental health issues have become more disastrous than sicknesses like diabetes, asthma, cancer and even HIV. It is a reality that mental illnesses cost lives, families, communities and our nation.
“This is the time for parents, teachers and caregivers to be more sensitive and deliberate about molding 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. “Moreso, 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.”
Speaking 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 him/herself differently from who he/she thinks he should be. 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 a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it. It could be 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 greatly increased 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.
“Bullying is another issue that can start young, and last 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 do 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 includes, feeling hopeless or worthless, blaming yourself unfairly, hating yourself, worrying about being unable to do things among others,” she added.
The only solution, according to Ogunrinde, 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.”
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, by saying 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, but oftentimes, it is caused by several incidences occurring in the child that he is bottling up; especially when the parent are not there for him or her.
“As a parent, you must note that your biggest asset in life is your child, 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 into alcohol and drug abuse, have sleep disorder or often lost appetite even for favourite foods.
Dr Kadiri advised: “Parents, do not be shy to seek help from a 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.”
Director of Education CSTC, Mrs. Amelia Dafeta said: “The Corona Trust Council decided to lend a voice having noticed the rate at which mental illness 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 note: “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.”