Beyond the Stats

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By Isioma D Okolo, MBChB, DTMH, MRCOG

Adults in Essence, not in Mind

Mind over matter’s tough,

when mind don’t matter enough,

whilst crossing the stage.


Following the “birth lottery” and puberty, the next significant stage in your life is adolescence. Adolescents make up  16% of the world’s population. This period between the ages of 10 to 24 years marks a period of physical, psychological, and social flux as individuals cross from childhood into adulthood. Rapid changes in the development of the adolescent brain make young people vulnerable to the impact of lifestyle choices such as diet, physical activity, alcohol, drugs, sex, and internet use. This is reflected in the most common causes of adolescent death – unintentional injuries (road traffic accidents and drowning), violence, and self-harm.

Lifestyle choices and circumstances around which young girls transition into young womxn impact their wellbeing--setting the stage for how they feel, think, and act at later stages in their life course.


In our piece this week, we learn about the inspiring story of NGO  Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) and its founder,  Victor Hugo. MANI is Nigeria’s largest youth-run and youth-focused mental health organisation. They are a community of young people who are championing the fight against mental health-related stigma and creating an environment that makes it possible for people to seek care for their mental health without fear of discrimination.

We live in a digital age where 57% of the world’s population is connected to the internet; 7.3 billion people access the internet on their phones. Many young people access health information on the internet. There is significant concern and controversy about the harm and dangers of uncontrolled access to the internet for young people.  Organisations like Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) leverage this opportunity to bridge the gap in adolescent mental health  by “…enabling conversations about reducing harm whilst providing solutions for young people in the same space where they encounter the harm.”


Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) serves as a powerful case study in how to use positive asset framing, storytelling, community participation, and data-driven approaches to catalyze policy change to improve the mental wellbeing of young people. 

Victor on the importance of positive framing . "I am an 'anti' anti-stigma advocate! Now I'm pro-mental health literacy advocate. Stigma is a negative connotation...it pushes people away from the conversation"

Stigma is not the problem. Stigma is a consequence of the problem

Not able to watch on Youtube? Listen on Soundcloud:

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this piece, here are some details of organisations that provide support:



In my pieces, I use the terms:

  • girls, women, womxn, pregnant people and birthing people to refer to some of the reproductive health experiences of individuals assigned female at birth 

  • minoritised in place of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & people of color), POC (people of color), BAME (Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic)  and BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) to recognise that different individuals and communities do not naturally exist as minorities; but instead have been assigned this identity in response to dominant social narratives. ‘Minoritised’ highlights contemporary power imbalances rooted in historical events of slavery, colonisation, and other systems of oppression.

Sneak Peek to Our Next Piece:

Did you know that your anatomy is a very reliable predictor of your chances of becoming a millionaire? Find out more in my next piece “The Economics of your Uterus.


  1. Gray NJ, Klein JD, Noyce PR, Sesselberg TS, Cantrill JA. The Internet: A window on adolescent health literacy. J Adolesc Health. 2005;37(3):243.e1-243.e7. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2004.08.023
  1. Adolescent mental health. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health
  2. Park E, Kwon M. Health-Related Internet Use by Children and Adolescents: Systematic Review. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(4):e120. doi:10.2196/jmir.7731
  3. Individuals using the Internet (% of population) | Data. Accessed November 1, 2021. https://data-worldbank-org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/indicator/IT.NET.USER.ZS
  4. Covid19 Study. Project Covid. Accessed November 2, 2021. https://project-covid.ng/covid19study/
  5. The Community. Project Covid. Accessed November 2, 2021. https://project-covid.ng/the-community/
  6. Amarasekera S, Ugo V, Florez V, Patalay P. Research task shifting and youth as drivers of a more global mental health science. Lancet Psychiatry. 2021;0(0). doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00368-0
  7.  Adolescents Statistics. UNICEF DATA. Accessed November 2, 2021. https://data.unicef.org/topic/adolescents/overview/

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