The Ilorin Neuroscience Group has emphasized the need for Nigerians to take extra care of their mental health and nervous system.
They also called on people not to stigmatize those with mental illness as they possess the same right as every individual citizen.
The Head, Department of Anatomy, University of Ilorin, Dr G.O Omotosho, made the charge on Thursday, at the annual Outreach programme of the Ilorin Neuroscience Group.
The brain awareness outreach organized for students from various secondary schools in the state, held at Emmanuel Baptist College, Tanke, Ilorin, the Kwara state capital.
While delivering his lecture, Omotosho defined mental illness as pattern of behaviour that causes a person significant distress or impairment of personal brain functioning.
He named those that affects children and teenagers are attention deficit and parasitic disorder.
Omotoso explained that mental illness does not only affects the individual, it also affects the family of the individual because people will take care of the person that is ill.
“It is a burden to the person affected, it’s a burden to his immediate family, it’s a burden to the society, it’s a burden to the nation at large,” he said.
The medical expert in neuro anatomy, also debunked some myths that mentally ill people are dangerous and violent, cannot be trusted around children, or that they are weak and not intelligent.
Omotosho highlighted causes of mental illness to comprise inheritance, tough life experiences, and awkward growth that traumatizes kids at growth.
Others are environmental exposure, alcohol and drug intake among others.
He admonished the younger ones to stare clear of drugs, except prescribed, as abuse and addiction has become a leading cause of mental illness in the society today.
The University lecturer also charged them never to consider suicide as an option no matter the setback either in their academic pursuit or any other aspect of life.
While declaring the event open, President of Ilorin Neuroscience Group, Professor Bamidele Owoyele said the outreach, the fourth of its kind, is a community service aimed at inspiring the next generation of scientists.
Owoyele, who is also Head of Physiology department, UNILORIN, said they also aim at raising general understanding of basic brain functions and improve public health by expanding awareness of neurological disorders.
Professor Owoyele, who described the brain as man’s most prized asset, said there is need to raise the level of awareness on how to take care of it and how “we can also help to manage those with mental illness especially at the early stage.”
He noted that similar awareness programmes are also being encouraged in other countries of the world to ensure that people understand the field and also choose it as a profession.
The University don, who noted that people in other fields of endeavours can also be neuroscientists, explained that professionals in the arts, social or financial sectors can become experts in any of the many arms of neuroscience as it affects their field.
The Group’s President said if more people are encouraged into the field, “this would help deepen research in the field and help proffer solutions to the manyy neurological ailments that are in the society today.”
On the rate of mentally retarded people in the society, he said although the government is trying, but there is room for improvement.
According to him, this is part of what informed our decision to do what we are doing. Because we cannot leave it all to the government. It has to start from everyone of us.
Owoyele said, “We just have to be passionate. Like we are supposed to be at our places of work, but we are here to give back to the society.
“So, I believe that everyone of us, any where we find ourselves, we should be involved in this kind of advocacy to ensure that, healthy living is our collective concern.”
The outreach programme also featured quiz and film shows, special lectures and neuroscience exhibitions.
Messiah High School, Tanke, Ilorin, won the quiz competition while Chaste Intellect International School and Saint Anthony Secondary School emerged first and second runner-up respectively.
Other schools in attendance are Roemichs International School, Ilorin, Muslim Model School, Ilorin, Minaret Comprehensive High School, Ilorin and Government Day Secondary School, Tanke, Ilorin.
Others are University of Ilorin Secondary School, Government Secondary School
The Ilorin Neuroscience group is made up of neuroscientists involved in studying various aspects of the brain in health and diseases.