Legal Nigeria

Parental Mental Health Disorder and the Rights of A Child. – By Success Oghosa Osaretin

Success Oghosa Osaretin

It is no longer news that so many parents are depressed as a result of several issues including;
economic hardship, divorce,postpartum disorder, spousal neglect or abandonment,
overwhelming parental duties and so on. The essence of this article is to bring to the awareness
of parents and caregivers the adverse effects of parental depression on their children.
The Convention on the Rights of a Child ratified by Nigeria as the Child Rights Act,
advocates for the best interest of a child; right to life, survival and development. It therefore
implies that the law places a duty of care on parents and caregivers as to the wellbeing of their
wards. Whatever affects a parent, affects a child.

Depression is the mental health disorder that causes feelings of hopelessness, despair, and
lack of motivation to move on. This disorder can affect a child negatively in different ways such
as; a parent bonding with a child, hostility of parents towards children, abusiveness, withdrawal,
parents less likely to be responsive to children’s needs.
Such child will be affected in terms of physical health, emotional withdrawal from parents, poor
academic performance,low self esteem and so on.

recognized the vulnerability and incapacity of the child to make decisions relating to his
health when it held that: all adults have the inalienable right to make any choice they may
decide to make and assume the consequences. When it involves a child different considerations
apply and this is so because a child is incapable of making decisions for himself and the
law is duty bound to protect such child from abuse of his rights

A child’s right to life, survival and development will no doubt be breached where the parents or
caregivers are suffering from severe depression. In fact, such parents will be less concerned
about the rights of their children and focus mainly on their lives, how to get out of their
depressed state.
Worthy of note is the fact that it takes a whole parent to bring up a whole child. Where there is a
defect in a parent’s mental health, it will no doubt affects the child’s mental health and even
physical health.

As parents and caregivers, in protecting the rights of our children, our mental health is of utmost
importance and we must give proper attention to it. Undermining it is undermining the
development and wellbeing of your child. Seek help, don’t shy away from it or assume
everything will be fine because children are sensitive receptors to parental stress.

Success Oghosa Osaretin is a Legal Practitioner and Professional Volunteer

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