© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Counselling combats mental, sexual related challenges on Nigerian campuses- experts
By Daniel Whyte (Student reporter)
MENTAL health advocates have claimed that the prevalence of depression, substance abuse, molestation and sexual harassment —all which sometimes drive the victim to commit suicide— in Nigerian societies (especially campuses) may be due, partly, to the loss of the culture of counselling and proper guidance in secondary and tertiary institutions.
Oluwakemi Omole, a doctor of psychology and coordinator of the Counseling and Human Development Centre in Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) and Taiwo Alao who is the founder of Gifted Foundation that advocates women’s sexual and reproductive health rights noted that counselling helped in combating mental and sexual related challenges in Nigerian institutions.
While speaking to The ICIR on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day, Omole said the counselling department plays a major role in any institution or organisation to address the mental health challenges.
Omole noted that there is an unduly huge rate of female students being sexually abused.
But the culture of silence among students continues to foster a fertile ground for this crime to germinate and grow.
“The roles of the counsellor are many. Counsellors help people to deal with and overcome difficult situations,” she said.
However, Omole said people are not speaking up is a major challenge to addressing mental and sexual related issues.
“What does a counsellor do when victims don’t turn up or speak up? This is the big question and usually the challenge for many counsellors,” she wondered.
To break the barrier of silence, Omole said counsellors should not wait till victims open up. She noted that they could now rely on hints from fellow students and colleagues of affected students.
She added that sometimes by monitoring WhatsApp status among other posts, one could deduce that a student isn’t in a perfect state of mind and with that exposition, they devise ways to reach out to the person without explicitly revealing how they got the information.
Omole who is a staff of FUOYE counselling unit added that she normally offer virtual counselling to students.
“I organised a walk to raise awareness and remind the FUOYE community that the counselling department exists,” she also recounted her activity of August 23 while speaking to The ICIR.
“With the walk, we are bringing counselling to the forefront” for people to know that “there is what is called counselling,” she said.
An increase in interpersonal relationships and physical communications were also described to be a good way to improve mental health among people instead of people resulting in social media communications.
She said parents have a crucial part to play in ensuring the mental health of their wards.
“Parents need to change and not be static,” she said. “We need to go beyond stereotypic judgement; we need to change rigid beliefs; enough of handing over outdated information”.
Taiwo who advocates women’s health also noted that secondary school students in Ekiti State, particularly the rural areas, were not enlightened on the role of counsellors in guiding them through whatever challenges they were facing.
She said her foundation outreaches to secondary schools in rural communities in Ekiti made her realise that the students have poor knowledge on the impact of counsellors to them.
Rape, sexual harassment and molestation, although often underreported, are also common phenomena in Nigerian institutions. Some lecturers take undue advantage of their students and often request sex for marks or upgrades.
BBC Africa Eye through a ‘sex-for-grades’ undercover documentary exposed the reality in the University of Lagos, Nigeria and the University of Ghana, Accra where lecturers sexually abused female students. The video narrated the experience of a female student of UNILAG that attempted suicide four times because she was sexually abused.
A report by Daily Trust found that 42 persons committed suicide within the first and second quarters of the year. Out of that 42, 11 were deaths of students. It also found that many of the suicide was through the use of an agrochemical product named sniper.
One of the students who committed suicide was Chukwuemeka Akachi, a final year student of English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Akachi took his life after taking Sniper in an uncompleted building.
He was said to have posted on Facebook before he committed the act. Here is his post: Forgive me. In case you are the one who found the body, I am really sorry. It had to be someone you know. I have chosen Jo Nketaih’s poem as my suicide note: “They said you came looking for me. I don’t drown, I was the water. Where do atheists go when they die? Lol. Amen”.
Punch Newspaper has also reported the case of Samuel Elias, a student of Religion and Culture from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka who also took sniper in order to terminate his life. These are two of the several cases reported this year.