Group Seeks Govt’s Partnership to End Depression Among Youths

Group Seeks Govt’s Partnership to End Depression Among Youths

… Demands Mental Health Act Implementation

From ERIC MOORE, Port Harcourt

A group known as Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative (MHEI) said it is carrying out an investigation into the prevalence of depression among youths not in education, employment or training, better referred to as NEET, between the ages of 18 to 24 years.

The group, which is a non-governmental organisation (NGO), in partnership with local and international academics and tertiary institutions, seeks to understand the challenges faced by the youths and to proffer solutions.

Lead researcher, Professor Linda Theron from the University of Pretoria, alongside the Nigeria focal lead, Dr. Zainab Mai-Borun, from the University of Leicester, sought to identify depression resilience enablers that could mitigate the risk of depression among the youths in the Niger Delta region.

Founder and President of The Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative and convener of the Association of Mental Health Reforms and Care Organisations in Africa (AMHROA) Network, Mr. Zion Ameh Abba, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at the weekend, said the study was apt as over 60 percent of Africa’s population were below the age of 25.

Abba stressed that the energy, creativity and adaptability of the youths were crucial for driving economic activities, as well as fostering sustainable development as the youths constitutes a substantial portion of the continent’s labour force.

He said: “We are gathered here today to shed light on a critical issue affecting African youths in the Niger Delta region in Niger and South Africa, the prevalence of depression among those who find themselves not in education, employment or training, commonly referred to as NEET is critical and demands urgent attention.

“Our research endeavours to delve into this pressing concern and explore effective strategies to protect and support those vulnerable individuals against the debilitating effects of depression.”

He noted that while 600 youths were being recruited for the study in Rivers and Bayelsa States respectively, another 1,000 youths are participating in South Africa.

Abba added that the findings of the study would underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions to address mental health disparities among youths.

He continued: “The study employed a mixed method approach, combining quantitative surveys with qualitative interviews and focus group discussions. This comprehensive methodology allowed us to gain a nuanced understanding of the factors contributing to depression among NEET youths and to explore potential resilience-building interventions.

“A total of 600 youths from Rivers and Bayelsa States are currently being recruited carefully from across the LGAs in the states, who will actively be the participants in the study in Nigeria. Also, another 1,000 youth participants in South Africa.

“Our findings will underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions to address mental health disparities among this demographic. Furthermore, the study will identify several resilience-enablers that employ a different impact on the mental well-being of NEET youths.”

Abba while advocating the adoption and operationalisation of the Mental Health Act 2021 across the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large, sought the collaborations and support of government’s health institutions, media, NGOs, youth councils, traditional and religious leaders, community based organisation in life cycle of the study and afterwards.

“The implications of the research extend beyond academia, with significant implications for policy and practice. Informed by our findings, we will be advocating to the executive, legislative, judiciary and non state actors for the development and implementation of holistic interventions that address the intersection challenges faced by NEET youth in the Niger Delta region, especially the mental health Act 2021 adoption and operationalisation across Niger Delta and other Nigerian states.

“We are specifically calling for collaborations from government’s health institutions.”

Ends.

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