Victor Ugo, 27, from Lagos, Nigeria; the founder of Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative speaks to Ayishat Amoo on how he is using social media as a tool for social advocacy.
Enjoy this interview!
Victor is a graduate of Medicine, and Surgery from Igbinedion University, Okada. He is currently the founder of Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, an organization concerned with ending the stigma associated with mental illness and, creating awareness to mental health using social media as a tool for social advocacy.
As the founder of this initiative, He has worked relentlessly in creating efficient models for achieving the set-out goals of the organization. He is also an international member of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, a U.S. based organization, with the primary aim of bringing together, people of varying backgrounds with a common interest in improving the healthcare industry with technology in the World.
Victor is a motivated young leader with an unrelenting passion for public behavioral health; social, and physician entrepreneurship; health systems, and advocacy; and a proponent of youth involvement as the rate limiting step needed for any forward-thinking country to succeed. Victor hopes to use his knowledge to contribute to a positive change in the approach of youths to the social media as a tool for societal activism and development.
What is your inspiration?
I have had to deal with challenges that have opened my eyes to the impoverished state of the health system in my country, and the experience that defines my drive can be traced back to my fifth year in medical school. I had just lost a loved one, weeks away from my third professional exam, and I broke down. I lost all intent to keep going and couldn’t keep up or cope with my usual daily activities. This continued for weeks until my friends rallied around and found a way to get me to see a psychiatrist for evaluation and I was sent for therapy. I always reflect on how difficult it was for me to combine efforts made at recovery and activities in medical school, most importantly, how scared I was, even with the basic understanding of mental illness I already had.
I thought of how terrified this could be for others going through these illnesses with little or no understanding of them, and with little or no support from family or friends. Especially in a country that considers any discussion about mental illness a taboo. My resolve was set- the foundation for the idea of an organization that will not just raise awareness on mental health issues but also connects patients with facilities was formed.
Presently, we have over two hundred volunteers and each day, more and more people are willing to contribute to our cause. To me, it’s awe-inspiring; that people are keying into my once small vision and helping to expand it into something that is looking to be even bigger than my dreams on start-up. My friends and Co-founders are my greatest inspirations because I wouldn’t cope without them and this dream wouldn’t exist without the roles they’ve all played.
Could you describe what you do, your role?
As the founder of Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, I champion the vision of the organization by establishing strategies, securing the necessary resources (human and financial), setting the organization’s culture and values, and maintaining team morale. And by hosting regular meetings, I remind team members of how much their contributions will help us achieve our objectives. I am also responsible for the recruitment of team leaders and state coordinators and I look out for individuals who are tolerant, motivated by the organization’s cause, possess complementary skills and deliver independent thought.
At 40 what do you hope to achieve?
I Hope to have played a major role in the proper establishment of the mental health system in Africa. 5 years back did you see yourself where you are today? No, I can’t say that I did, but I’ve always been concerned about the health of the marginalized, so I have a feeling I would have been here or close enough.
Tell us more about your journey.
Well It hasn’t been such a smooth one, and it’s not like I’m anywhere near where I want to be, but I’m happy at the steady pace of it all. For now, I can say that as an organization, we have made the most impact on improving the mental health discussion in the Nigerian Social Media space than any other organization, and I intend to further build on that platform to reach out to millions more.
Who is your role model?
My Parents are my role model. I’ve grown to see the sacrifice they make for others and how happy they have been making them, and I hope to make that impact and more.
What is your career highlight so far?
The Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative is the realization of a dream and I am content and more than proud of the team of young people I have been able to put together and the impact we have made on raising awareness of mental illnesses and disorders in Nigeria.
What is fascinating about your job?
Each time I connect a patient with a psychiatrist or psychologist, I feel again like that time in my life where I lost all hope but somehow found a way to survive and finish medical school; I feel a total sense of fulfilment, that I have helped another like me, to find a way to survive and keep thriving. And every time I think of a new idea that we can explore to further our goals, I’m excited all over again about how far we can go with this.
What can you tell young people who are still struggling to find their vision?
I think as a young person, you should look to identify a passion you can live for, then die for it.
Connect with Victor online!
LinkedIn – Victor Ugo
Twitter – @veeksterzz
Facebook – victor.sterz