In the face of the glaring lack of mental health awareness programmes in Africa’s biggest economy, Chenaniah Bamishile, a social entrepreneur is on a mission to make a difference.
With unwavering dedication, she founded the Niah Foundation in 2021, a social enterprise that combines innovation, outreach, and empathy to foster a nation where mental health is understood, accepted, and nurtured.
“From a young age, my passion has been aiding those unable to care for themselves. At nine, I told my father of my dream to amass wealth, enabling aid to war-torn nations with shelter, sustenance, and skills,” she says.
“Throughout high school, I always found myself helping people and standing up for those that were disenfranchised. This propelled the inception of the Niah Foundation.”
According to Chenaniah, the core of the mental health message always remains the same. Still, adjustments are always made to cater to the uniqueness of each varying group we reach out to.
“Whether in different formats, animated series for some, visual aids in some cases, or with translators on the ground at outreaches, we always try to get the message across,” she says.
Chenaniah got funds from her confectionery business, donations, school allowance, and her parents to kick-start her business.
Today, Niah Foundation’s uniqueness lies in its commitment to raising awareness and ingenious approach to breaking down barriers to knowledge consumption.
Recognizing that effective education requires tailored strategies, Chenaniah and her team have harnessed the power of creativity. Their social media platforms have become vibrant spaces where information dances in engaging forms.
One ground-breaking initiative involved creating one of Nigeria’s first mental health-focused animated series, capturing the attention of over 7,000 individuals within a year. This dynamic approach educates and captivates, ensuring that crucial messages reach minds eager to learn.
“We have received testimonials about how some of our followers have been able to offer mental health first aid just by following the steps in the animated series,” she says.
“We also receive feedback from people who have been able to de-escalate their mental health crises using helpful tips and guides from our page and increasing the general awareness on certain illnesses and conditions.”
Also, the 21-year-old aspiring entrepreneur desires to amplify mental health awareness in Nigeria through an innovative avenue – a movie series. “I have already developed the script for the upcoming movie series,” she says.
However, Chenaniah’s innovation continues beyond captivating content. The foundation has altered misconceptions about mental health, illuminating the reality that these issues transcend socio-economic boundaries.
To bridge this gap, the foundation undertakes outreaches that address immediate needs, forging connections with previously skeptical communities.
“We host outreaches to meet those needs that consume them, making them more inclined to listen to us and hear what we have to say,” Chenaniah says.
“Our upcoming app will further enhance our ability to reach the youths, provide information creatively and help all the various segments of people that need mental health solutions in Nigeria.”
The foundation has positively impacted hundreds through clothing and blood donation events, and medical outreaches, elevating their quality of life while delivering essential mental health education.
According to the young entrepreneur, the animated series, infographics, and interviews reach thousands daily, fostering an informed and compassionate generation prepared to tackle mental health challenges head-on.
“These users are impacted because consuming these contents increases the number of people having more knowledge, increasing their capacity to help people around them and even themselves better cope with mental health challenges,” she says.
“Schools and correctional facilities have become vital arenas where mental health education takes center stage.
Chenaniah and her team have educated over five hundred children and inmates through workshops and discussions, sparking actual transformations in their understanding of mental health.
The social entrepreneur envisions a network of ambassadors, individuals rooted in their communities, perpetuating mental health awareness long after the foundation’s visits.
According to Chenaniah, these ambassadors will serve as bridges, connecting the foundation’s message with the diverse tapestry of Nigeria’s cultures, languages, and beliefs.
According to her, collaboration is central to our strategy. The foundation actively engages mental health professionals, experts, and organisations to ensure accuracy and quality in disseminating information.
“Rigorous research and consultation guarantee that the content resonates with the best practices of the mental health field,” she says.
On sustaining this long-term initiative, Chenaniah says, “We are working towards having our own mental health-centered revenue-generating business in which all profits will be put into funding a bigger team and hosting more outreaches more frequently and in more locations.
“We also plan to have more community follow-up sessions to build on the initial awareness provided.”
She also intends to raise mental health awareness advocates (NIAH FOUNDATION AMBASSADORS) in various schools and communities to reinforce mental health awareness even when there’s no ongoing outreach.
As Chenaniah ‘s efforts continue to gain momentum, her eye remains fixed on sustainability. A self-sustaining revenue-generating venture is on the horizon, with profits reinvested to expand the foundation’s reach, host more frequent outreaches, and offer follow-up sessions for sustained impact. The journey is relentless, driven by a passion from a childhood surrounded by unmet mental health needs.
Through creative content, strategic outreach, and community engagement, Chenaniah has sparked a revolution in mental health awareness that is reshaping Nigeria’s cultural landscape, one heart and mind at a time.