Mental health advocacy in our higher institutions

Mental health advocacy in our higher institutions

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I do not know the actual number of universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and technical colleges that Nigeria parades; since we have an educational system that plays too much emphasis on certificate acquisition rather than vocational training, which requires character development.

The system boasts of numerous secondary schools, both private and public, churning youngsters into these higher institutions without equipping them with proper vocational and character development since we emphasise a lot more of book knowledge.

Some of our new entrants bring with them the habit of undetected abuse of psycho-active substances, with grave mental health consequences. Current statistics show that young people abuse drugs for the first time as early as 12 years of age.

The reasons are multifaceted, but the most prominent is the absence of sound parenting as template of primary socialisation.

Our generation provides for absentee parents. As soon as the baby is born, a nanny takes over since the mother gets to attend to career demands. This possibly disturbs the crucial bonding that should exist between mother and child, with grave psychological consequences.

These children grow up all alone without the crucial warmth and nurture of parenthood that is crucial for the development of wholesome personality.

The most important mental preoccupation of the adolescent period covers activities that seek to authenticate their theories about of life. With the failure of primary socialization, the adolescent enters the university without clear-cut direction and coordinated orientation to life.

And due to the precocious age of entering the higher institutions, our youths get into these adults sophisticated environment as children in their minds. Those who get distracted early may sabotage proper educational development but could still find their way into the higher institutions through dubious means.

The emerging crop of youths in our higher institutions reflects the breakdown in our moral values predicated on the failure of parenting. We may possibly have more of our boys affected than girls, but it is not gender exclusive.

Although the girls are more rounded in their development than the boys since marital difficulties may have necessitated their upbringing by single mothers who can guarantee more of proper upbringing of girls than the boys who may become indulged, the actual nipping in the bud of this menace should have started in the secondary school through rigorous psychological profiling of students, especially those with character issues.

A lot of psychodynamic issues may be responsible for those unruly behaviours that require interrogation with the cooperation of parents and care givers.

The guidance and counselling unit has the enormous potential of facilitating ‘a psychological clinic’ that could tackle the immediate and remote causes of those behavioural patterns. This model is also useful in providing referral to places where help can be obtained.

Our higher institutions therefore admit a cohort of young people with enormous psychological issues.

Some of our private residential universities tackle this problem with legalistic approaches rather than being psychodynamic.

Every higher institution has a designated office manned by an academic member of the community for student affairs, which should be proactive rather than combative. Our campuses have a lot of several anti-social vices with strong mental health implications. We have several cult groups, clubs that indulge in hard drugs. Some of these habits have even become the prerequisites for joining some clubs as an indicator of belonging to the popular group. Medications with psychoactive properties in the form of tablets, syrups and injectables are very common, and they are usually bought over the counter to maintain euphoric mental state. The attendant social lifestyle of gambling, sexual indiscretion, wild party and demonstration of opulence require some psychoactive substances to create and maintain such practices.

These practices are expensive, which make the boys to engage in cybercrime known as ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ to source for funds, while their female counterparts indulge in the ‘aristo syndrome’ which is a modified form of prostitution.

Invariably, a good number will drop out of the academic programme and constitute a menace to the society. Some actually develop mental illness secondary to these practices; and there could be associated increased incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in this cohort.

The authorities of our higher institution as surrogate parents of these young ones must come up with intervention programme through a multi-disciplinarian strategy model. The student affairs mandate must be reinvented and expanded with strong mental health inputs.

As part of the programme for the new comers into the institution, lectures, symposia and some basics of their general health status, especially mental well-being, should be undertaken. Psychodynamic formulations and social assessment of these youths should be done to offer help and coordinate resources around our young men who are victims of these vices.



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