Sunday 12 November 2023

The Sunshine Series Mental Health Symposium: Advocating for Mental Health Rights in Nigeria

Shades of Us at The Sunshine Series Mental Health Symposium in Abuja

By Cynthia Umeh

The Sunshine Series hosted its Annual Mental Health Symposium, ‘Mental Health as a Universal Human Right: A Multi-Stakeholder Perspective’ on October 26, 2023, to raise awareness of mental health as a universal right and foster mental health education in Nigeria. 

There were a diverse range of speakers and panel discussions at the symposium, providing valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities in the realm of mental health. Keynote speakers, panelists, and experts addressed issues such as access to mental health services, the stigma surrounding mental health, the role of legislation, and the need for financial support. Attendees were encouraged to normalize conversations about mental health and strive for a more inclusive and accessible mental health system. 

The event also explored the intersection of mental health with education, youth well-being, and disability policies, highlighting the importance of contextualizing mental health initiatives. Furthermore, the power of storytelling in raising mental health awareness was underscored as an effective way to connect with diverse audiences.

The Sunshine Series and Shades of Us share common goals and values in advancing mental health awareness and support in Nigeria, making our collaboration a natural and mutually beneficial partnership. We supported the Sunshine Series Mental Health Symposium to further our mission of promoting mental health awareness, reducing stigma, and fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals facing mental health challenges in the African context.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Mental Health is a Universal Right: The event emphasized that mental health is a human right and that everyone should have access to the care and support they need, regardless of their background or social status.

  1. It is Important to Normalize Mental Health Conversations: Open and honest discussions about mental health are crucial. Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues is essential for individuals to seek help and support when needed.

  1. Mental Health Issues are Intersectional: Mental health issues affect everyone, and the symposium highlighted the need to address the unique challenges faced by different communities and demographics and the intersection between them.

  1. Legislation is Important to Address Mental Health Issues: The Mental Health Act 2023 in Nigeria was celebrated as a significant step towards improving mental health care. Legislation plays a vital role in protecting the rights of individuals with mental health disorders.

  1. We Must Balance Funding: Mental health services need increased funding and resources to ensure that people can access the care they require. Government and private sector support are essential to achieving this goal.

  1. Community Engagement is Vital: Building supportive communities and peer networks is crucial for mental health well-being. Individuals should be encouraged to reach out to their communities for support.


  1. Advocate for Appropriate Legislation: Continue advocating for strong mental health legislation to protect the rights of individuals and ensure access to mental health services.

  1. Promote Awareness: Raise awareness of mental health issues and the importance of reducing stigma. Encourage open conversations about mental health.

  1. Increase Funding: Governments and the private sector should increase funding for mental health services to make them more accessible to everyone.

  1. Community Support: Promote and establish peer support groups and networks as vital resources for individuals struggling with mental health issues.

  1. Tell More Stories: Leverage the power of storytelling to educate and create empathy around mental health challenges. Use narratives to engage diverse communities in mental health conversations.

6. Contextualize Mental Health Initiatives: Tailor mental health programs to suit the cultural and societal contexts of different communities. Recognize the unique challenges they face and adapt interventions accordingly.

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