YOUNG PEOPLE AND MENTAL HEALTH IN A CHANGING WORLD
Photo Credit: Creative Common (Flickr)Milf Showoff
“What do you expect from someone who has madness running in their family?”
The question, though asked in hushed tones stung me with such ferociousness; it almost reminded me of the time mama had been stung by bees. She had been in her farm when she mistakenly struck a beehive with her matchet, and the whole swarm, furious at been disturbed, had descended on her and stung her all the way while she ran home crying. However, unlike in mama’s case, the words of these women did not sting my flesh. They stung my heart. All because I had beaten up a fellow 14 year old who called me the sister to a mad man.
My brother, Justice was sent to the university three years ago, after completing his secondary education at the community secondary school here in the village; the same school I currently attend. At first, mama had been hopeless about his university education; she was just a farmer. I have never known my father- I heard he ran away with another woman just few months after I was born. Mama had single-handedly raised my brother and I. So it was a relief when my mother’s brother who resides in the city had offered to sponsor my brother in the university. Mama had been overly excited, fully assured that Justice would return after four years with a degree. That was three years ago. Justice went away to school and became addicted to hard drugs. He just returned a month ago; not with a degree, but with a mental illness.
Do you know? Approximately one in five school aged youths (ages 4-19) experience mental health problems.
As a youth, the issue of mental health among youths is not a new subject to me. In fact, some years ago, I was shocked on learning that a student in my school had become mentally ill due of substance abuse. Henry was a young brilliant medical student who somehow got involved with drugs. He paid the heartrending price in his fifth year when he suddenly started acting crazy. It was later diagnosed as a mental illness.
The most common causes of mental illness among youths today, are depression and substance abuse. Early adolescence is a time when some youths try substances for the first time. For youths with mental health problems, this time can mark the beginning of a vicious spiral into self-medication. Substance use can also cause mental health problems such as anxiety and psychosis.
BC’s McCreary Centre Society, which has been conducting research on adolescent health since 1992, is a reliable source of information about drug and alcohol use. In their latest province-wide survey, 60% of youths had used alcohol at some point in their lives. Of youths who had tried alcohol, 45% had engaged in binge drinking (i.e., consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting or relatively short period of time). Ten percent of all youths had used alcohol on 100 or more days in their lifetime and would be considered ‘regular drinkers’. Twenty percent used cannabis (marijuana) and 11% used tobacco.
Given the high rates of mental problems and the high rates of substance use, it is likely that many youths will present a concurrent disorder. Youths with concurrent disorders are at highest risk of negative outcomes, including suicide, homelessness, sexual exploitation and incarceration.
Depression is another common problem among young people. These people are in the stages of self-discovery. At this point in their lives, they are faced with pressures to make the right choices, combined with the action of different hormones, and depression sets in. Some have emotionally traumatizing personal problems which they find difficult to talk about, and gradually develop into mental illnesses.
In my opinion, youths should be properly enlightened on the effects of the hard drugs they use, sometimes to overcome depression. The sensitization exercise should not only be done via social media; a large number of youths do not have access to it, including young people who do menial jobs and the popular ‘agberos’ use a wide variety of hard drugs and substances to become ‘high’. Also, some musicians/entertainers and those in the movie industry are known to use some of these substances in order to boost their confidence before they perform publicly.
Youth friendly centers should be set to provide youths with confidential counseling and help on private issues. Parents should as well try to be more attentive to their young ones and be able to detect any change in behavioral pattern.
The youths represent the future of every nation. Their mental health should be a priority to all.
Amadi O. Vinaprisca