Bridging the Gaps: Strengthening mental health support for young people in Nigeria

Young people in Nigeria are facing new pressures based on rapid changes in society, including social media, cyberbullying, body image issues and rising unemployment. Statistics show a growing number of mental health challenges amongst young people, and suicide has been identified as one of the most common causes of death in this age group.

Many university students from low income homes worry about how to feed and clothe themselves whilst bearing immense pressure to graduate and get a good job to ease the family’s financial burdens.

A major shortage of mental health services in Nigeria – there is around one psychiatrist per million people – means that most young people with mental health problems have nowhere to turn. Lack of understanding and awareness means that social stigma is also a major challenge. Without appropriate support, young people with mental health problems often resort to substance abuse and other damaging behaviour.

Together with our partner Mentally Aware Nigeria (MANI), we’re working to strengthen mental health support available for young people, including through schools and universities. Our 5 year project, launched in 2020 is:

  • Reducing stigma and improving attitudes towards mental health, including training mental health promoters to talk to teachers, students and parents in their communities and setting up mental health clubs for peer support in primary and secondary schools, and universities
  • Developing a digital first aid platform for mental health, to include crisis counselling, information about mental health and referrals for further support, so that young people nationwide have improved access to services
  • Setting up Student Advocacy Networks (STANs) for mental health in four universities in Nigeria, which will grow a sustainable youth-led movement to improve awareness and challenge the government to increase attention on youth mental health by advocating for better policies and increased funding
  • Supporting MANI to strengthen their organisation, so that they can run more mental health projects across Nigeria, including training staff, volunteers and counsellors and improving financial systems, policies and procedures.

This project is funded by Comic Relief.

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