In a world where the echoes of vulnerability often go unheard, one voice rises above the silence to champion a cause vital yet overlooked: men’s mental health.
Meet Halima Layeni, a beacon of compassion and resilience, whose tireless advocacy reshapes societal norms. Through raw authenticity and unwavering determination, Halima is forging a path toward destigmatizing mental health conversations among men.
Join CrispNG in delving into the profound journey of this determined advocate as she speaks on the vision, campaigns, successes, challenges and plans of her NGO, LAAF.
Could we have the pleasure of meeting you?
My name is Halima Layeni. I am an impassioned advocate for Men’s Mental Health and the Founder and Executive Director of Life Abuse Foundation (LAAF).
Tell us about LAAF
Our dynamic non-profit organization is dedicated to engaging boys and men as advocates for social and systemic change, aiming to foster gender equality and promote healthy masculinity.
At LAAF, our primary focus involves providing sensitization, mentorship, and psychosocial support to boys and men across various nations. We achieve this through a range of methods, including organizational and policy engagement, school outreach programs, community engagement, media advocacy, and psychotherapy.
What experience inspired you to start the NGO
LAAF’s establishment arose from my personal experience of being sexually abused at the tender age of 6 by friends and family members. Overcoming the resulting pain and trauma, I founded the Life After Abuse Foundation in 2017, aiming to assist survivors in healing, finding their voices, and reclaiming fulfilling lives post-abuse.
The world expects men to always show strength even in moments of weakness, do you think society is fair to men in that regard?
Societal expectations for men to exhibit strength can have negative impacts on individuals and society as a whole. These expectations often place a heavy burden on men, leading to harmful consequences. Men may feel pressured to suppress their emotions and vulnerability, fearing that showing any sign of weakness will make them less masculine or deserving of respect. This can result in difficulties in forming and maintaining meaningful relationships, as they struggle to express their true feelings and connect with others on a deeper level.
Furthermore, these expectations can discourage men from seeking help for mental health concerns. The stigma surrounding mental health issues is often magnified for men, who are expected to handle their problems independently. As a result, they may suffer in silence, leading to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
The rigid definition of strength also perpetuates harmful stereotypes, limiting the range of emotions and behaviours that men are allowed to display. This not only restricts individual freedom but also contributes to toxic masculinity, wherein aggression and dominance are valued over compassion and empathy.
It is important to challenge and dismantle these societal expectations, promoting a more inclusive, accepting, and healthier understanding of masculinity.
How do you promote healthy masculinity within the space you work in?
Promoting healthy masculinity is a fundamental part of our approach to men’s mental health. We do this by providing a safe and non-judgemental space where men can openly discuss their feelings and experiences without fear of stigma or discrimination.
Through group community sensitisation, policy engagement, therapy sessions, workshops, and support groups, we encourage men to explore their emotions, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and challenge societal expectations that may contribute to their mental health struggles.
Additionally, we actively advocate for gender equity and inclusivity in our programs, ensuring that all individuals feel valued and respected, regardless of their gender identity or expression. By prioritizing emotional well-being and redefining traditional notions of masculinity, we aim to empower men to lead fulfilling and authentic lives.
What’s your thought on this year’s International Men’s Day theme “Zero Male Suicide” and how does it resonate with the LAAF’s mission?
The theme “Zero Male Suicide” for this year’s International Men’s Day is highly relevant and important. It highlights the pressing issue of male suicide rates, which tend to be significantly higher compared to females in many countries. This theme resonates with LAAF’s mission by bringing attention to men’s mental health and promoting awareness, prevention, and support systems to reduce male suicide rates.
LAAF likely supports this theme by engaging in initiatives that aim to de-stigmatize mental health issues among men, providing resources for mental health support, and fostering a culture of open dialogue and help-seeking behaviour.
What impact has your organisation made in the areas you serve, please share your success stories.
LAAF has directly impacted over 8000 boys and men across 4 African countries and 10 states in Nigeria. The foundation has engaged in political actions, awareness campaigns, and gained recognition from various global brands and institutions such as UN Youth Solutions Report, Change.org, Civic Hive, Budgit, Donors For Africa, Every Woman Treaty, U.S. Consulate, Carrington Youth Fellowship and Sinbol Group.
How does your NGO fund its operations and projects?
LAAF receives funding from various sources such as partnerships with global organizations, volunteer network and donations to sustain its operations and projects.
What are the key challenges or obstacles your organization faces in carrying out its mission?
One of the primary challenges we encounter is the absence of a comprehensive infrastructure catering to the mental and psychological well-being of men and boys. While numerous NGOs are dedicated to ensuring women and girls access essential help and support, there is a noticeable scarcity of similar resources for men. This scarcity makes it more challenging for men to seek and access the necessary support they require.
How does your NGO collaborate with other organizations, government agencies, or local communities to achieve its objectives?
LAAF collaborates with various organizations, government agencies, and local communities to achieve its objectives in men’s mental health. It partners with mental health associations, non-profit organizations, and suicide prevention groups to share resources, knowledge, and best practices.
LAAF also collaborates with government agencies responsible for mental health policies to advocate for improved support systems and funding. LAAF engages local communities through workshops, seminars, and awareness campaigns that aim to educate and empower boys and men to recognize signs of mental distress and support those in need. Through these collaborations.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for the future, and how do you plan to expand or evolve your organization’s work?
Our short-term goals involve establishing the first men’s support centre in Lagos, providing immediate medical, psychosocial and legal support and guidance to boys and men. Our long-term goals are focused on expanding our reach, establishing more support centres, and advocating at a global level for policy changes supporting men’s mental health.
How can individuals or other organizations get involved or support your NGO’s efforts?
Interested individuals or organizations can support LAAF by volunteering, donating, becoming advocates, or potentially collaborating on campaigns and initiatives to promote men’s mental health. Kindly make donations to Guaranty Trust Bank – 0267561215 NGR, 0748634890 USD, 0748634900 GBP, 0749634917 EUR or online via paystack.com/pay/laaf
Are there any specific events or campaigns your organization is currently involved in or planning for the near future?
We are scheduled to launch a Men’s Support Helpline on International Men’s Day. The Helpline will provide the following services:
Psychological Support: Trained counsellors will be available 24/7 to offer psychological assistance and referrals to mental health professionals if needed.
Legal Guidance: LAAF will collaborate with in house legal experts to provide guidance on a variety of legal issues, including family law, employment disputes, and more.
Medical Assistance: Medical professionals will offer information and referrals for men’s health concerns, promoting overall well-being.