The consensus of participants at a recent well attended seminar at the Lagos Business School was that the public should know and create awareness about Mental Wellness of our children particularly the teenagers to save parents and school authorities the agony of taking their lives.
One of the revelations that came out of the conversation yesterday was that parents and school management should come out of DENIAL when signs of emotional issues that could affect the mental wellness of our children are noticed.
A live case was discussed when a participant sought help about a year 7 student who wrote a suicide note because she felt unloved by her parents, yet the parents were not aware that their child is so depressed that she wants to kill herself.
Another shocking revelation is that teenagers who want to end their lives DO NOT write suicide notes in diaries anymore! They now post it on their Facebook or Instagram walls or Twitter.
The Director of Mental Awareness Nigeria Initiative (MANI), an NGO run by young Nigerians disclosed that 5,000 suicides were prevented this year alone because MANI monitored the posts on social media and intervened.
AWARENESS about mental health and the STEREOTYPES associated with mentally challenged individuals should be addressed.
Disturbing statistics were given about teenage suicides in Nigeria. But because of stereotypes “ what will people say”; “aye o gbodo gbo”; “our reputation will be destroyed “. Many parents who should have sought help, keep quiet and do not attend to the early signs.
The economic situation and rat race to keep up is not helping matters. Style of parenting too should be regularly reviewed.
The child who committed suicide was not from a poor home. What that child lacked could have been PARENTAL LOVE. It could also have been inability to cope with PEER PRESSURE. Another problem teenagers face is BULLYING in school and LOW SELF ESTEEM.
It was the resolution of all those present at the meeting yesterday that schools should have POLICIES on what can enhance the mental wellness of their students. PARTNERSHIP between parents and the school was emphasized.
Now back to your question as to what should be the response of a school owner faced with similar unfortunate situation.
From all I heard from the insightful discussions from experts on the subject, the following are my recommendations:
1. Own up to the challenge
- Contact the parents of the victim immediately
Create awareness among other parents
Invite professionals such as counselors, child psychologist, clinical psychologist, psychiatrists and life coaches to talk to both Parents Teachers Association (PTAs) and students.
Educate teachers ( they know the children more than the parents) about mental wellness
Reduce pressure on teenagers regarding academic success. Let children explore their talents and parents should encourage and give support.
Know your child’s friends and be a parent to them too. Teenagers don’t talk to their parents about their issues but would rather talk to their friends.
Finally, by organizing a life- saving seminar to create awareness about mental wellness (balanced lifestyle) of teenagers, I don’t think the affected school is ashamed or embarrassed that a student under its care committed suicide.
Parents and guardians, please look out for unusual changes in your child or wards.
This conversation is more IMPORTANT than the celebrity gossips, please share and create awareness about MENTAL WELLNESS of young adults.
May we not bury our children. Amen