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Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2012 Jul;17(3):336-53. doi: 10.1177/1359104511410804. Epub 2011 Aug 18.

Nigerian secondary school children's knowledge of and attitudes to mental health and illness.

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Greenwood Institute of Child Health, University of Leicester, Westcotes House, Westcotes Drive, Leicester LE3 0QU, UK.



Children tend to lack knowledge of, and hold negative attitudes towards mental illness. However, most of the work undertaken in Nigeria has been done with adults.


To establish the views and knowledge about mental health and illness in pupils at four secondary schools in rural and urban Southwest Nigeria.


A cross-sectional survey based on a questionnaire previously used in the UK and adapted to Nigeria.


Data from 145 Nigerian schoolchildren showed little knowledge of, negative attitudes and social distance towards persons with mental health problems. Urban participants and boys appeared less knowledgeable than rural children and girls.


Nigerian schoolchildren, as with Nigerian adults and young people in Western countries, show stigma towards mental illness. This may be underpinned by a lack of knowledge regarding mental health problems. Educational interventions need to be appropriate to area, age and gender to effectively improve mental health literacy, which in turn will influence attitudes and social distance. However, the fact that the schoolchildren were optimistic about recovery is a strength that could be built upon.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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