By Precious Ahiakwo-Ovie, for the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Spring Gardens (Nigeria)
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Mental Health Day, the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Spring Gardens, in partnership with Phree Tech Web Development Nigeria, unveiled a billboard at a busy intersection in their community to raise awareness of mental health issues. Club members gathered at the unveiling of the project and distributed mental health awareness flyers to motorists and community members in the area.
With the declining Nigerian economy hitting hard on its citizens, the impact has been significant, particularly on the mental health of youth and women. The decline in the country’s economy has adversely affected the protective factors of mental health, such as social support, educational level, employment status, income, availability of mental health facilities and services, housing, transportation, and prices of commodities. A renowned psychiatrist, Professor Taiwo Jame Obindu, has also raised the alarm that by the year 2030, one in four Nigerians will struggle with a mental health disorder unless immediate action is taken to address it.
Festus Etsemitan, president of the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Spring Gardens, said during the commissioning of the project that Nigerians need to normalize lending a hand of support to those with emotional challenges, noting that suicide rates can be drastically reduced if individuals feel safe and supported.
“Through our billboard awareness campaign, educational programs, and community outreach, we strive to break the silence surrounding mental health.”
“We aim to create an environment where individuals feel safe and supported, where they can openly discuss their struggles, and where seeking help is seen as a sign of strength, not weakness.”
In unveiling the billboard project, Past District Governor and Rotary District 9141 Mental Health and Wellness Chair Nze Anizor said Rotary International President Gordon McInally has made mental health a focus of this Rotary year, and the Rotary Action Group for Mental Health Initiatives has set three goals for Rotary members to make progress in this effort: raise awareness of mental health issues worldwide, break the stigma associated with discussing mental health, and find ways to increase access to care for the people we serve worldwide.
He said, “Remember that mental health issues do not end today. They live with us, and we should not relent in executing projects and activities to educate our populace that mental health problems are not a death sentence but are surmountable, and that the patient has rights just as the rest of the society.”
Club Training Facilitator Ajoke Enebeli said “The importance of raising awareness should not be underestimated and is a great way for any Rotary or Rotaract club to get started. The world is facing numerous mental health challenges today, and Rotary members can achieve a great deal just by placing more attention on them.”
Take action to promote mental health by organizing events or initiating conversations about it. We invite you to share your club’s experiences with the Mental Health Initiative by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and posting them to the Mental Health Campaign in Rotary Showcase. Need some inspiration? Check out this blog post for ideas on how to promote mental health in your community.