Students are abusing psychoactive drugs in ever greater numbers every year in Nigeria. Drug abuse has become a major public health problem in most nations of the world and can be observed in nearly every nation. Reports from different studies have shown an increasing trend of drug abuse in many African countries in particular (Adelekan et al, 2000).
In Nigeria drug abuse was uncommon decades ago. Today it can be seen on roadside corridors and motor parks of most urban centres, where young people gather on daily basis to drink alcohol and smoke Indian hemp (Rasheed and Ismaila, 2010). Youths have been identified as particularly at risk for the abuse of psychoactive drugs. In Abuja, federal capital Territory, Nigeria, some 29% of boys abuse alcohol and cannabis. According to the report released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (MFLF), One-in-five students in secondary school, male and female, are reported using cannabis. Use increases with grade level, with 37 percent of senior secondary school students reported to have used cannabis in the past year. One study revealed that 65% of the respondents believed alcohol was very easy to get. Alcohol drinking is dangerous. Nearly 20 per cent of high-school students report blacking out due to alcohol consumption on at least one occasion in the last year.
Unmet Demand for Psychiatric Care
Mental illness is on the increase in Nigeria. 64 Million Nigerians are going through one form of mental illness or another. The socio-economic situation in the countryhas given rise to a generation of people with mental illness. Poverty, hopelessness and insecurity are increasing alarmingly. Nigeria has a population of more than 160 million people, yet only has 150 psychiatric hospitals. Less than on for every million people!
Worse still, these hospitals are not adequately equipped.
Lack Of Awareness
There is a tremendous need, especially for high-risk youth in low-income neighbourhoods, for programs that provide drug related mental health illness awareness activities when class is in session and throughout the year.
A study published in Pediatrics magazine found that eighth graders who were left alone after school reported greater use of cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol than those in adult supervised settings. Current research indicates that educating young people during school about the negative impact of drug use to their mental health not only keeps children safe and out of trouble, but also significantly improves their academic performance.
What We Are Doing About It
Supporting the Mentally Ill
We are building on the work we’ve done over last three years, creating vital support services for men and women suffering mental illness, whether they are adjusting to life after recovery from illness, exploring career options after leaving the Neuro-Psychiatric Specialist Hospital, or coping with ongoing illness.
Many of these sufferers will continue to need us for the rest of their lives. We provide ongoing support for the mentally challenged at the Neuro-Psychiatric Specialist Hospital by providing food, medicines, hospital beds, clothing, toiletries and moneythat they absolutely need to live in a dignified, humane manner. We are also working to extend our reach to Kaduna, Lagos, Jos, Abuja and the rest of Nigeria.
Drug Abuse Prevention
We are laying the groundwork for a mental health illness prevention & intervention program specifically targeting students who are abusing psychoactive drugs. Reports from different studies have shown an increasing trend of drug abuse in many African countries (Adelekan et al, 2000). Drug abuse has become a major public healthproblem in most nations of the world, and is becoming a major threat to the next generation of Nigerians.
Cannabis use has been linked to both current and future physical, psychological and social problems. The high prevalence of cannabis consumption and hazardous drinking behaviour among these adolescents together are already having adverse social effects on family, communities and the entire nation. There is a tremendous need, especially for high-risk youth in low-income neighbourhoods, for programs that provide drug-related mental health illness awareness activities during the school hours and throughout the year.
The four major components of the program we are working towards will be:
School Mental Health Awareness through education, tutoring, mentoring and watching of mental health educational movies, presentations and interactive sessions.
Nutrition Education to promote healthy lifestyles and combat mental illness.
Teaching Life Skills which are integrated throughout all phases of the program.
Tennis Instruction where participants engage in fun physical fitness, enjoyplaying as part of a team with friends and peers. They will also learn to become responsible adolescents and adults. Participants receive tennis instruction one-on-one and practice skills in team format play. They learn about rules of the game, etiquette, sportsmanship, positive attitudes, fair play, self-esteem, taking responsibility for choices, and management of emotions. These life skills are integrated throughout the tennis program and instructors routinely demonstrate how they apply to situations in all aspects of life. Nutrition and healthy lifestyles are stressed both in the classroom setting and on the courts. Healthy snacks are provided.
Our drug use program is fortunate to have a corps of volunteers who are dedicated to the program and are available to work with the students on improving their mental health through academic programs.