Main Article Content
Background: Health and mental related illnesses has emerged as a new challenge in the rural and undeveloped areas in Ogoniland where petroleum exploration activities have devastated the entire ecosystem. Many of the school children are no longer zealous about their academic activities, as their performances in school are always very poor. It has been reported that the children’s poor performance in school is closely linked with several health and mental challenges suffered by these children in the highly polluted areas.
Methods: The study comprises of 383 primary school teachers selected from 8 rural communities in the four (4) Ogoni Local Government Areas (Gokana, Tai, Eleme and Khana) in Rivers State where massive environmental pollution has been reported. Structured questionnaires were used to collect the data from the teachers on the children’s exposure to oil pollution; self-rated mental illnesses and behavioural symptoms among the school children, perception to petroleum pollution and mental illnesses.
Results: The results revealed that the signs of mental illnesses like anxiety disorder, attention-deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, mood disorder, schizophrenia and eating disorder were noticeable among the school children. The children also exhibited behavioural challenges such as extreme fear, difficulty in concentrating, self-imposed injuries, aggressive behaviour, avoiding other classmates and poor academic performances. The field survey further revealed that mental illnesses and behavioural challenges were common in areas of massive petroleum pollution of the environment. Other causes of these illnesses were revealed to be poverty and psychoactive substance use.
Conclusion: It was concluded that constant exposures of the children to environmental pollution is associated with decreasing neuroplasticity of the brain.
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