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New York conference to focus on mental health issues in Black communities: Official

“The conference will feature plenaries and networking sessions.’’

• March 24, 2024
United States of America flag
United States of America flag [Photo: Shutterstock]

The 2024 edition of Created Unique Mental Health Conference will focus on increasing incidents of mental health problems among Nigerians and black communities across the world.

Communications Lead for the event, Onche Odeh, who disclosed this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja, said mental health experts and stakeholders would converge on Westchester, New York, for the conference scheduled for May.

He said that the conference would address some of the established mental health problems that the black community faced, especially those that had emigrated from Africa.

“The conference will feature plenaries and networking sessions during which various categories of experts, including mental health practitioners in different specialties, government representatives and healthcare workers.

“Others are religious leaders, and stakeholders in the U.S. and other parts of the world will engage in rich interactions, share experiences, and partake in a workshop for healthcare workers. The conference is filled with practical valuable tips for recognising and successfully addressing mental health issues among various groups of people,” he said.

Convener, Ify Ezinwa, said the conference would focus on some of the mental health issues faced by Nigerians who had migrated to the U.S. and other countries in what is now known as ‘japa.’

Mrs Ezinwa, also the Founder of Echoes Africa Initiatives, an NGO, said that ‘japa,’ as emigration had come to be known in Nigeria, provided many facets of opportunities and problems.

She said, “What you get from your host country depends on how mentally prepared you are. Unfortunately, most people who migrate just want to leave, a reason most of them go into mental health crisis once they are hit by unforeseen situations that give contrary impression from their preconceived expectations.’’

Mrs Ezinwa quoted the World Health Organisation as saying that, “There is no health without mental health. The global mental health crisis is a major issue facing the world today.

“This is evident in the staggering numbers of those affected in available data. Mental illness affects an estimated 950 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of disability across all age groups.’’

According to her, mental health issues have become the leading cause of suicide, accounting for over 800,000 deaths per year.

“Minority groups, particularly black people across the globe, are more vulnerable and short-changed because they are a diverse group from different cultures, beliefs, traditions, and practices not understood by the majority of mental health specialists. Most current mental health education and awareness campaigns do not consider the diversity of the minority groups hence, no significant impacts are made.

“This informed the conceptualisation of the conference which will kick start our mental health awareness campaign and intervention on how to get succour,” Mrs Ezinwa said.

She said that mental health experts agreed that awareness, education and access to effective interventions and treatment were the only way to stem the tide and help those suffering from mental health.

Experts that will speak at the event include President, Association of Nigerian Psychiatrists in the U.S. Dr Sosunmola Shoyinka.

Shoyinka is also the Chief Medical Officer at Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services and Founder of CURITAN Foundation.

Others are U.S.-based clinical psychiatrist and associate professor at Yale University School of Medicine, Dr Ted Iheanacho and clinical psychologist, Director of Training and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy programmes, Dr Allen  Miller.


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