The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has warned that the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of children and young people could be felt not only in the present but also in years to come.
The organisation, disclosed this in its flagship report on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.
TheFact Nigeria noted that issues of mental health in the country were often ignored, leading to irreversible damage in people.
According to the flagship report, a survey done by UNICEF revealed that, even before covid-19, children and young people carried the burden of mental health conditions without significant investment in addressing them.
The report also showed that wide gaps existed between mental health needs and mental health funding, it showed that only about 2% of government health budgets were allocated to mental health spending globally.
UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Mr. Peter Hawkins, emphasised on the need to invest in children’s mental health, he said:
“Even before the pandemic, far too many children were burdened under the weight of unaddressed mental health issues. This has been compounded by the pandemic. The impact is significant, and it is sadly just the tip of the iceberg.
“With the nationwide lockdowns and pandemic-related movement restrictions in Nigeria, children have spent indelible years of their lives away from family, friends, classrooms, play – key elements of childhood itself.
“They have also suffered an increase in violence and abuse, especially girl children”, said Hawkins.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that, more than 1 in 7 adolescents aged 10–19 is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental health problem globally.
Also, almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide each year, among the top five causes of death for their age group.
UNICEF therefore called on government and private partners alike to invest in child and adolescent mental health across sectors, not just in health and also to support a whole-of-society approach to prevention, promotion and care.
“Mental health is an integral part of health, and just as important as physical health – we cannot afford to continue to view it as otherwise.
“We must commit to understanding and investing more in this critical area so that we maximize every child’s potential and their ability to fulfil their dreams of a full and happy life”, said Peter Hawkins.