Towards School-Based Interventions for Mental Health in Nigeria

Bolanle Ola and Olayinka Atilola

Incorporating mental health into school health programmes (SHPs) has been identified as an appropriate and effective strategy for child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) promotion and intervention in both developed and developing countries (American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on School Health 2004; Patel et al. 2007; Patel et al. 2013). This approach is particularly apt in developing countries where human and material resources for CAMH are often severely limited (Robertson et al. 2010). The school environment is however yet to be established as a formal setting for providing CAMH programmes in most developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. This assertion is corroborated by the results of systematic reviews of school-based mental health services around the globe, which highlight a dearth of studies in sub-Saharan Africa (Katz et al. 2013; Corrieri et al. 2013). Furthermore, research within the last decade from Nigeria has recommended the establishment of school-based mental health programmes (SBMHPs) as an innovative way of broadening and harnessing resources for CAMH services (Ibeziako et al. 2009; Bella et al. 2011).

In designing SBMHPs for a region, it is expedient to document the nature and correlates of mental health problems among school-age children, including the broader socio-political context of child mental health. This knowledge will optimise the extent to which SBMHPs are appropriate to particular

B. Ola (*) • O. Atilola

Department of Behavioural Medicine, Lagos State University College of Medicine, Lagos, Nigeria

© The Author(s) 2017

R.G. White et al. (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Sociocultural Perspectives on Global Mental Health, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-39510-8_24

contexts. Contentious issues such as potential risks of inappropriately assigning diagnostic labels to school children, as well as the merits and demerits of school-based programmes in general, need to also be critically examined. These critical perspectives will help to avoid common mistakes such as the unwitting stigmatisation of service users (AAP Committee on School Health 2004) and poor or de-contextualised implementation of programmes (Atkins et al. 2003; Timimi 2010).

This chapter reviews the scientific literature in order to discuss critically the aforementioned issues as they affect the feasibility of implementing SBMHPs in Nigeria. The lessons learnt from the review will help in the design of a needs-based and context-appropriate SBMHP for the region. The chapter closes with a suggested pathway to the introduction of SBMHP in Nigeria, and by extension, other developing countries with similar socio-economic, cultural and political realities.

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