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Mental Health: Teenagers alert peers, parents to dangers of excessive use of social media

Nigerian Youths Making a Presentation at the Mental Health Awareness Conference in Abuja, FCT Photo: NAN

*Nigerian teenagers from different secondary schools deliberate on a task during a Mental Health Awareness Conference in Abuja, revealing that youths’ addiction to the social media can lead to less or no time for studies, access to pornography, anxiety and depression among other health issues

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Some Nigerian teenagers have said that youngsters’ excessive and uncontrolled use of the social media can lead to mental health issues.

The youths, who were drawn from different secondary schools in Abuja, made this observation Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at a conference held on Mental Health Awareness for Teenagers.

Organised by Inspire Minds, an education foundation, the teenagers at the forum, also disclosed that addiction to the social media platforms could lead to no or less time for them to study, or do other things that are beneficial to them or lead them to accessing pornographic sites on the Internet, agency report said.

A teenager on the social media platforms     Photo: TheFact NG

The young participants further said that depression could come as a result of seeing things on social media that they could not attain.

They added that depression could also come from seeing the fake lives some people live that they would want to have at all costs.

The youngsters, however, said that reduced time on the social media to focus on studying, engaging with

their peers, and others constructively.

They as well advocated the parental guidance could help teenagers to avoid the pitfalls of mental health issues.

Miss Victory Ekong, teenage ambassador for the foundation, said anxiety, depression, constant pressure are things that can lead to mental health for teenagers, report noted.

The young lady also said that apart from social media, issues from homes, school and the society at large could lead to mental health issues for the young minds.

Ekong, however, said through interventions and workshops by the foundation, she had been made to understand that having a stable mental health is paramount to a teenager’s wellbeing.

“I have also been made to understand that teenagers need attention and mental health is not something you joke with; it is actually a more serious matter than people think it is.

“I am more stable in my mental health now because I am aware that it is a natural condition and I try to avoid issues that may lead to mental health breakdown,” she stated.

Objectives of Mental Health Awareness conference for teenagers

Mrs. Rosemary Uwaleme, the Co-Founder of Inspire Minds, said that the conference was organised to create awareness, reduce stigma and mitigate social vices in the West African country.

Uwaleme affirmed that mental health issues were not taken seriously, the situation which has led to many cases of suicide even among Nigerian teenagers.

She said: “Today, we hear of different cases of suicide; they started from somewhere.

“So we need to create awareness for people to know what these issues are, know when they need to speak to someone about problems that they have, so that they can avoid getting into such problems.”

Mrs. Uwaleme also explained: “Now bringing teenagers into this, many teenagers don’t like to talk about their problems.

“So, you have to make talking about mental health with them be like a normal language, just like you speak English.”

The Co-Founder of the Foundation noted: “In Nigeria when you say mental health people think you are talking about madness.

“So, the aim of this organisation is to create mental health awareness so that we can cope with cases like depression, abuse, and all sorts of mental health issues.

“We want to create that awareness and help young people to be able to communicate freely about their problems.”

According to her, this could be achieved through sensitisation and counselling programmes for young people.

The foundation, Uwaleme disclosed, also provided financial support for the teenagers when necessary.

She said the Inspire Minds also partners with the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and Universal

Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to provide facilities for them.

Mental health issues, a matter of concern for young people, children, teenagers: Expert

In her contribution at the conference, Mrs. Constance Egwuatu, a professional Child and Adolescent Counsellor and one of the facilitators, noted that several young people now battle with mental health issues in Nigeria.

Kids also surfing the Internet

Egwuatu observed that teenagers could not talk about the mental health issues for fear of stigma, or being perceived as having spiritual issues.

According to her, many of them did not even know what exactly was wrong with them because they did not seek help for depression.

She also said: “Some isolate themselves and begin to have suicidal thoughts or engage in vices.

“Some are being raped or abused and they go through a lot of things.

“So, these mental health issues should be a concern, especially for all our young people, children and teenagers.”

The professional counsellor advised parents or guardians: “We should mind what we say or what we do around them and what we do to them.

“And we should also encourage the children to begin to talk to us or talk to counsellors who can help them.

“However, it should start from home so the awareness really should start from home so parents can know what to look out for in the children to detect if something is wrong with them.”

About quality, edifying content on social media platforms

In regard to the social media, Mrs. Egwuatu said Web content being created should be responsible, so that teenagers could learn from them rather than causing them harm.

The professional counsellor further advised that social media should not just be about getting followers, but should also to serve as a veritable tool to guide young people appropriately.

She also urged parents and guardians to give the needed attention to their young ones to encourage them.

The attention broken at home could make them to run to others to get it which might be disastrous.

“That is why I tell teachers and parents that they should not aggravate the problems of the children. “They need to be understood; don’t push them to the social media.

“When you don’t give them what they need, social media is there with different kinds of content,” she added.

Rep. Nsikak Ekong, Member, representing Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, said that the conference was impactful because it addressed issues that have to do with social media and teenagers.

The Federal legislator stated: “So this kind of workshop is very good because it educates the young ones, you catch them young; you tried to change your attitude towards life, try to change their mentality.

“You try to make them believe and know that whatever you want to be depends on you, no procrastination.

“In terms of laws, we are getting there somehow. Most states have domesticated the Child Rights Act, which is a law that protects the child from bad experiences, trauma and child abuse, so I think we will get there.”

Mr. Abubakar Ndaputu, a parent at the forum, observed that giving children an opportunity to be themselves is very important because it is the best way to know how they feel about certain issues.

Ndaputu, however, said that the government has a role to play by creating an enabling environment for them to be able to express themselves.

The government, he urged, could facilitate training and workshops for teachers on mental health issues so they could in turn give the necessary help to the children when needed.

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