International Youth Day – Youth and Mental Health

international youth dayAugust 12th is a day designated by the United Nations for the purpose of drawing attention to youth. This years theme is ‘Youth and Mental Health“.

The numbers of youth who are having various mental health issues are on the rise around the world. While it is not talked about much in Nigeria it is also a real issue that is facing and plaguing some of our Youth.

Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. 

Youth are actually more susceptible to being disillusioned as they look at their life ahead of them. If and when they are not finding the opportunities they expect it can be a cause of stress that can lead to mental health issues.

Youth are under pressure from friends, the world and other influences. Though youth feel like they are making the right decisions they are susceptible to making wrong decisions that can take them down a slippery slope to a challenged life.

There is an increase in teenage use of drugs, such as marijuana, heroine, cocaine, and crack and these are dangerous substances to mess around with, some teenagers use this one time and that can be the end – they end up in mental institutions from the aftermath of the use of drugs.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), increasing percentages of children and adolescents have begun to drink alcohol; the quantities and frequency of consumption have increased and the age at which drinking begins has declined.

Youth need structure and they need frameworks – A system of Country that fails the youth fails itself.

On a program I watched on TVC News – A gentleman on the News segment made a good point about the people we are putting in the position to set policies. If you put a 60 or 70 year in charge of setting policies and you add 20 years to their age it is unlikely that they can monitor and see the Goals become a reality.

It is time for our Government to think about how they make policies that affect the youth. Nigeria has over 70 million youth and if they are not properly planned for we have a problem!

What are some of the issues that our Youth are facing?

  • National stress factors such as Boko Haram, #Bringbackourgirls
  • Uncertainty about their future relating to employment nor a system to encourage entrepreneurs
  • A government who does not seem to care about them or their future
  • The allure of the fast life showing people throwing money around with parties every weekend in the papers
  • Children who have been victims of abuse with no support system to help them through the trauma

Youth with mental health conditions can often experience stigma and discrimination, which in turn can lead to exclusion and/or discourage people from seeking help for fear of being negatively ‘labelled’.

In Nigeria, our President represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo was quoted as saying “as a government, we will continue to accelerate the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action and advance the Youth Agenda through adoption of policies and mechanisms that will facilitate the creation of safe, decent and competitive employment opportunities.” this was the message at the 2014 International Youth Day Celebrations, with the theme “Youth and Mental Health: Nigerian Youth at Centenary,” held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

In addition a book titled “In Our Minds: Reflection of the Youth at Nigeria’s Centenary (1914-2014)” was unveiled. (source Premiumtimesng.com)

So as we raise awareness of the International Youth Day – let it not be just a “day” we set aside. Let us all take steps to help youth by taking the time to help them navigate life and their future. Youth are not as mature as they think and they need strong support systems to navigate the world around them.

They need you – their parents, their places of worship, schools and social awareness to help them navigate life successfully. For information on what mental health is read more at Mentalhealth.

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