African Governments Urged To Address Mental Needs Of Children | Independent Newspapers Limited
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African Governments Urged To Address Mental Needs Of Children

Posted: Jun 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm   /   by   /   comments (2)

Chioma Umeha

Lagos-Psychiatrists from Nigeria and the African Sub-Region have called on all African governments to address the mental health needs of children.
This charge is one of the recommendations contained in a communique issued at the end of the three-day first International Conference on Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Ibadan.
A copy of the communique signed by Prof. Olayinka Omigbodun, Director, Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH), University of Ibadan, was made available to the Independent on Monday.
The conference with the theme: “Mental Health for Nation Building”, was held at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan.
According to the communique, there is urgent need for the governments of Nigeria and other African countries, to focus their attention on the plight of children and adolescents.
It said most of them faced a life of poverty, and poor physical and mental health, adding that these factors hinder their ability to develop into healthy adults, live and fulfil their life aspirations.
It added that the delegates underscored the need for continuous evidence gathering for advocacy, policy and programming for child and adolescent mental health.
It said that the importance of continued generation of research evidence to support the existing burden of child and adolescent mental health challenges, and the efficacy of tested interventions was revealed at the conference.
“The attention of delegates was drawn to the fact that globally, countries, agencies and funders are realising the importance of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) because it determines the future health and wellbeing of the adult population.
“This includes the future economic and social development of nations, and the health and wellbeing of generations to come.
“The importance of location or `place’ in the outcomes of young people living with chronic disorders such as HIV and mental illness was also expounded.
“It was emphasised that when providers see individual clients they are only getting a snap shot view and they need to understand the ecological systems, which surround them so that they can be able to really help.
“Delegates at the conference explored the dimensions of effective communication in mental health delivery and identified problems associated with mental health communication as stigma, lack of awareness and misinformation.
“The need for stakeholders to work hand in hand with the media was reiterated.
“Communication should not be left solely in the hands of mental health specialists, but should be the duty for everyone as we are all providers of mental healthcare to young people in the home, school, community or specialised care centres.
“Providers of mental healthcare needed to improve verbal and nonverbal communication skills and always transmit hope and put on a YES face.
“Delegates also agreed that there was urgent need for school health programmes, with mental health and nutrition as component parts, and education of the girl-child.
“The links between food, nutrition, mental health and nation building were established; common nutritional deficiencies such as iron and iodine have detrimental effects on the developing brain and consequently on mental health.
“Stunted children earn 20 per cent less than their peers in adulthood and the cost to the nation is estimated at 13 billion dollars annually.
“It was emphasised that it was the collective responsibility of the government and all stakeholders of the Nation to ensure proper development of children’s brains because they are the leaders of tomorrow.
“If their brains suffer through nutritional deficiencies, the type of leadership they will be able to provide will be problematic.
“The difficult and derelict conditions in which children in the custodial section of the Juvenile justice system in Nigeria and other African countries were kept were a major cause for concern and discussion at the conference.
“The need to implement Article 40 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by various governments is also adopted.
“The articles states that: `Those who commit crimes should be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth.
“Facilities for counselling; probation; foster care; education and vocational training programmes and other alternatives to institutional care shall be available’.
“Governments should immediately ensure that children within the juvenile justice system are entitled to optimal mental health so that they can be integrated back into society and be involved in nation building.
“Governments should immediately ensure children within the juvenile justice system are entitled to optimal mental health so that they can be integrated back into society and be involved in nation building,” it read.
According to the communique, there is need for networking and collaboration between professionals working with children and adolescents.
It said it had been observed that there were so many different services being offered for children but there was a general lack of awareness by others working in the field.
“Effective communication among multidisciplinary teams involved in the care of children and adolescents was stressed as important for effective care provision.
“A key way to providing this is to have training programmes for the various disciplines involved in child mental health care as operates in CCAMH.
“Self-care for Mental Health Providers was also stressed. Mental healthcare providers needed support because of their roles in managing the large mental health burden in developing settings with very little in terms of resources,” the communique stated.
According to it, governments should ensure the full implementation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2020).
“This has components for promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, care and recovery, as this would ensure that every child attains optimal psychological development and functioning,” it stated.
The communique listed conference committee members to include Prof. Mrs Olayinka Omigbodun, Convenor and Director, CCAMH and Head of Psychiatry College of Medicine, UI and UCH.
Others included Dr Tolulope Bella-Awusah, Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, Dr Olurotimi Adejumo and Dr Yetunde Adeniyi.
Also experts in Administration, Communication and Language Arts, Education, Family Health, Nursing, Paediatrics, Psychiatry, Psychology, Public Health, Reproductive Health, Social Work, and other stakeholders were at the conference.
There were over 100 delegates from various sub-regions of Africa including the countries of Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, USA and the UK.

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