Mental health and well-being are crucial aspects of every human, including students. It affects their overall health and academic performance. In Nigerian schools, students face various stressors that can negatively impact their mental health and well-being, such as academic pressure, socioeconomic stress, and family problems.
As a result, it is necessary to actively promote mental health and well-being in Nigerian schools to ensure students have the skills to cope with stress and succeed academically.
Understanding Mental Health and Wellbeing
Before we dive into promoting mental health and well-being in Nigerian schools, it is essential to understand what mental health and well-being are.
Mental health refers to the state of an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Well-being, on the other hand, is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.
Good mental health and well-being are essential to raising well-rounded (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor) and fully developed children which is the aim of education in Nigeria.
Common Mental Health Issues in Nigerian Schools
Nigerian schools face various mental health challenges that can negatively affect students’ academic and social life. Some common mental health issues that Nigerian students face include:
- Substance abuse
Yes, these issues exist even though they don’t get enough attention. That’s the point of this article— how to promote mental health in Nigerian schools.
Strategies to Promote Mental Health and Wellbeing in Nigerian Schools
Here are some strategies that Nigerian schools can implement to promote mental health and well-being among students:
Create a Safe and Supportive Environment
The school environment plays a primary role in promoting mental health and well-being among students. Many Nigerian schools, especially public schools, have poor structures— clumsy classrooms, dirty environments, and pressure-inducing expectations.
Schools can create a safe and supportive environment by:
- Providing a clean and hygienic environment
- Ensuring students feel physically safe in school
- Encouraging positive relationships between students, teachers, and staff
- Fostering a sense of community and belonging
- Encouraging open communication and support for mental health issues
Promote Physical Health
Physical health and mental health are closely related. Many studies have continued to show that the increase or decline in either of them has a directly proportional effect on the other. So when schools intensify their care on the physical health of students, they are taking for of their mental health by extension.
Nigerian schools can promote physical health by:
- Encouraging regular physical exercise
- Providing or encouraging healthy meals and snacks
- Encouraging students to get enough sleep
- Promoting good hygiene practices
- Encouraging regular medical checkups.
Provide Mental Health Education
Mental health education can help students understand mental health and well-being and develop coping strategies. The average Nigerian student has inadequate knowledge about mental health issues.
While they know about something called depression, they don’t know what can be done about it or how to avoid it. These advocacies should be championed by, but not left only to, the school guidance personnel.
Nigerian schools can provide mental health education by:
- Including mental health education in the curriculum
- Providing access to mental health resources such as books and websites
- Offering mental health counseling services
- Encouraging students to seek help when they need it
Address Bullying and Harassment
Bullying and harassment can have a severe impact on students’ mental health and well-being. Bullying reduces the victim’s self-esteem, induces stress on them, and can trigger anxiety.
Several viral news of bullying that have been spreading in recent times have only revealed that the menace is more serious than we have conceived.
Nigerian schools can address bullying and harassment by:
- Having a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and harassment
- Providing education on bullying and harassment prevention
- Encouraging students to report bullying and harassment
- Providing support to victims of bullying and harassment
Encourage Parental Involvement
Parental involvement can play a significant role in promoting mental health and well-being among students. Regardless of what teachers and schools do, if students go back to unsupportive homes, their mental health will still deteriorate.
It is not uncommon to hear of cases of domestic violence, forced labor, or verbal abuse in homes. Nigerian schools can encourage parental involvement by:
- Providing opportunities for parents to participate in school activities so the school can influence them
- Encouraging parents to communicate with teachers and staff when facing difficulties with their wards
- Providing resources for parents to support their children’s mental health and wellbeing
- Involving parents in mental health education.
Encourage peer support
Having healthy relationships is essential to living a life free from stress, and maintaining mental health and wellbeing. Lonely students have been found to have higher levels of stress, impeded sleep, and, in turn, harm their bodies.
Nigerian schools can encourage peer support by:
- Promoting positive relationships between students,
- Creating peer support groups,
- Providing training for students to recognize signs of mental health issues and provide support to peers.
Offer stress management and relaxation programs
Stress management and relaxation activities such as reading, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, going for a walk, and hugs can help students cope with stress and improve their mental health and well-being.
While the average Nigerian doesn’t practice these activities, they are effective and can be learned.
The administrators of schools should organize specialized programs intermittently, as part of the overall school guidance program, to teach students these relaxation mechanisms.
Provide access to mental health professionals
Every school must provide access to mental health professionals such as school psychologists, social workers, and counselors to support students with mental health issues.
Asides from having certified counselors, the schools must also ensure that the professionals are functioning. Counselors’ offices should be established and students be encouraged to visit the counselor.
Create a positive school culture that promotes mental health and wellbeing
Promoting mental health and well-being is more than just some set of activities— it depends on the entire culture of the school. When the school develops a culture that prioritizes mental well-being, it will affect all its decisions.
The workload on the timetable, the emphasis on co-curricular activities, and the way staff members are treated, all revealed how much the school prioritizes mental health and it reflects on the students.
Nigerian schools can create a positive school culture that promotes mental health and well-being by:
- Recognizing and celebrating student achievements,
- Providing opportunities for positive feedback and reinforcement, and
- Promoting a sense of purpose and meaning.
Research mental health issues
Nigerian schools should research mental health issues to identify areas for improvement and develop evidence-based interventions to promote mental health and well-being.
This is more applicable to higher institutions. Many of the theories used by mental health professionals in Nigeria were developed by white researchers for white populations. While these theories have been effective in some ways, we can always do better when we study our peculiarities.
By implementing these strategies, Nigerian schools can promote mental health and well-being among students and create a positive and supportive environment that fosters academic success and personal growth.
Promoting mental health and well-being in Nigerian schools is crucial for the overall health and academic success of students. Nigerian schools can promote mental health and well-being by creating a safe and supportive environment, promoting physical health, providing mental health education, addressing bullying and harassment, and encouraging parental involvement.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can schools do to promote mental health and well-being among students?
Schools can promote mental health and well-being among students by creating a safe and supportive environment, providing mental health education, addressing bullying and harassment, encouraging parental involvement, promoting peer support, offering stress management and relaxation programs, providing access to mental health professionals, and creating a positive school culture.
2. What are some common mental health issues that students face in Nigerian schools?
Some common mental health issues that students face in Nigerian schools include anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma.
3. How can parents support their children’s mental health and well-being?
Parents can support their children’s mental health and well-being by communicating with teachers and school staff, encouraging their children to seek help when they need it, providing emotional support, promoting physical health, and seeking mental health services if necessary.
4. What are some signs that a student may be experiencing mental health issues?
Some signs that a student may be experiencing mental health issues include changes in behavior, mood swings, decreased academic performance, social withdrawal, changes in sleep patterns, and physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches.
5. How can schools ensure that students have access to mental health services?
Schools can ensure that students have access to mental health services by providing mental health counseling services on campus, partnering with mental health organizations in the community, and offering referrals to mental health professionals. Schools can also educate students and parents on how to access mental health services outside of school.
- GoodTherapy. (n.d.). What’s the Connection Between Physical Health and Mental Health? https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/whats-the-connection-between-physical-health-and-mental-health/
- 21st Century Chronicle. (2022, February 25). Revealed: 10 School Bullying Cases That Shocked Nigeria. https://21stcenturychronicle.com/revealed-10-school-bullying-cases-that-shocked-nigeria/
- American Psychological Association. (2019, May). CE Corner: Isolation and Health. Monitor on Psychology, 50(5). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.