FGGC Sagamu: Bringing Mental Health to the Front Burner

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Ugo Aliogo

Sagamu, a rustic town in Ogun State is the home of Federal Government Girls College (FGGC). Nestled in the heart of the city, the college has produced great women who have risen to the zenith of their career. Their success stories resonate beyond the shores of Nigeria. They all share a common trait – the passion to give back to their alma mater. This, they have done in diverse ways through their alumni association. They invest in projects aimed at improving the social welfare and learning conditions of the students of the college.

On this bright Sunday morning in October, FGGC Sagamu Alumni USA assembled students of the college, experts and important dignitaries in the school premises for its 5th health and wellness workshop.
The workshop which was conceived for the purposes of expanding upon existing health and wellness education programmes within the school curriculum focused on Mental Health.

The seminar provided an eye opener for participants to understand the meaning of mental health, because of the various interpretations and negative narratives the issue has garnered over the years. To set the tone for discussion was a paper presentation by a Consultant at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, and the Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH), Dr. Tolulope Bella-Awusah.

Bella-Awusah is a lecturer in Psychiatry at the College of Medicine. She has been actively involved in the development of mental health services for children and adolescents in hospital and community settings. These services include community outreaches to children in correctional institutions, training in schools on mental health issues, and training for caregivers of children in institutions on how to meet the mental health needs of children in their care.

She began her presentation with an operational definition of the subject matter of discourse. She sees mental health as a state of emotional well-being which provides for psychological wellness of an individual, “it is a condition where individuals are developing well, accept themselves, they have a purpose in life, and they have a positive relationship with others.”
Awusah however noted that the subject matter had gained a negative narrative because it’s erroneously viewed as mental disorder.
She argued that mental health primarily involves physical and emotional wellbeing of an individual as opposed to the negative definition it had been given. Therefore it involves people’s emotions, behaviours and thinking which are controlled by the brain.

She said: “If we need to change the narrative of mental health, it is going to be a gradual process. First, we have to begin through awareness creation. It is through this that people who had suffered mental disorder can come out.

“One challenge that exists is that many people don’t know that there are treatments available for people with this condition. Many people don’t know that persons with mental disorder can function better and achieve greater things in life. Because they once have mental disorder doesn’t mean they cannot achieve what they want. For a long time mental health issues have been shrouded in secrecy. People don’t want to come out in the open.

“One of the things we suggest is advocacy; it provides us the opportunity of teaching, and talking to people. There is the preventive part of mental health. Also, there are so many things we can do to prevent people from falling sick. I believe that there is so much that can be done in the area of mental health and other health challenges.”

Apart from the lecture, also included on the agenda were the presentation of 100 chairs for ICT Lab and the presentation of best grades awards to the top 5 students for academic performance in their 2017 WASSCE examination by the James Akintola Olatunji Family Foundation in partnership with the USA alumni.

Looking radiant in a red gown, President of the FGGC Sagamu Alumni, USA chapter, Abimbola Art-Alade, in her remarks said the desire to help the young girls reach their goals was one of the reasons why the old students returned to their alma mater to provide critical information about different health issues to the students. For 2017, she said the health series workshop was on mental health.
For an initiative which is in its fifth edition, the association has succeeded in establishing a mechanism to monitor the progress yearly especially through feedbacks from the girls.

“We ask them to write essays about each workshop that they have attended and the one on mental health is going to be closely monitored. It is a pretest and I’m going to do some posttest for the girls to help them about this particular subject. So monitoring the success of the workshop is based on feedbacks from the school and the students,” she noted.

While noting that the workshop was sponsored in part by Beta Malt, Jemi-Alade Tours, Cadbury Nigeria, Travel Options Nigeria and Promasidor Nigeria, she expressed alumni USA appreciation to the companies adding that “their support means a lot to the girls at FGGC Sagamu.”

Art-Alade said she was glad that FGGC Sagamu Alumni USA had been able to add value to the lives of the young girls, especially taking them a step further in their career pursuit and personal development.
She added: “We do a lot of things for the school such as provision of chairs for the Library. We do a lot of projects but this workshop is very dear to me because if I had the opportunity to learn what they are learning, I would have done better in my adult years. Apart from the regular curriculum that they had, there was nothing like this. We use these workshops to create awareness for the girls on certain health issues.

“Today, we presented awards to five students of the school for their outstanding performance in the 2017 West Africa Examination Council (WAEC). Shalom Adekunle was the overall best in the WAEC and won N50, 000. The second prize went to Anointed Okunola who won N25, 000. The third prize was won by Blessing Agbedion who went with N20, 000, the fourth prize was won by Fatimah Odumuyiwa who received a cash prize of N15, 000 and the fifth prize was won by Olunifemi Kafaru who won N10, 000.”

Among the distinguished guests at the workshop were wife of Ogun State governor, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun, represented by Mrs. Oladipo, wife of Ogun State Commissioner for Culture; former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Aderoju Ojikutu; Special Adviser on Health to the governor of Ogun State, Dr. Babafemi Adenuga; Dr. TA Bashorun; President & CEO, Utopian Consulting LLC, Dr. John Adesioye; and Mr. Yemi Olatunji of the James Akintola Olatunji Family Foundation.