World Mental Health Day was observed on the 10th of October this year under the theme, ‘Youth and Mental Health in a changing world’.
“Adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of life when many changes occur, for example changing schools, leaving home, and starting university or a new job. For many, these are exciting times. They can also be times of stress and apprehension however. In some cases, if not recognized and managed, these feelings can lead to mental illness. The expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bringing many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, as connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows. Many adolescents are also living in areas affected by humanitarian emergencies such as conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics. Young people living in situations such as these are particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness.” (source)
This snippet from the WHO organization shares on why mental health awareness is important, particularly in the youth. Statistics show that 50% of all mental illnesses typically start at the age of 14. The fact that many of these illnesses go undiagnosed and untreated among the youth means it is a major issue in many countries across the world.
In Kenya, research shows that depression and anxiety are the leading mental illnesses, especially in the youth. It is against this background that different stakeholders sought to host a discussion forum on mental health and the youth. This is important because it not only allows the youth to build mental fortitude, it also creates awareness and allows them to seek for help.
In Kenya, Mental 360 exists to promote mental health by raising awareness, creating support systems for the youth and advocating for the rights of persons experiencing mental health challenges. On 11th October 2018, the team held a forum with the aim of engaging stakeholders to find out how to improve the mental health of the youth in Kenya.
PPDKenya was invited to talk about teen pregnancies and how this predisposes teen and young moms to Postpartum Depression. One of our team members, Lindsey, also share a moving account of her PPD story and what we can do to help moms living with PPD. Here are snippets from that conversation:
Teen pregnancy, also known as adolescence pregnancy, is pregnancy that occurs in females below 20 years. Some of the risk factors associated with teen pregnancies include:
- Lack of sex education
- Broken families and especially where kids are exposed to violence
- Sexual abuse
- Harmful cultural practices that include early marriages and FGM
- Peer pressure to fit in
- The glamorization of teen pregnancy and the influence of the media
Read More: Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Owing to the challenges of teen pregnancy, teen and young moms are predisposed to PPD. PPD typically affects at least 20% of new moms, but the rates are higher in teens at approximately 36%. This risk increases significantly in teens who have lived with mental illnesses. What’s more, for teens with mental illnesses, pregnancy and parenting only aggravates the condition.
How can we help teen moms?
- By recognizing that teen pregnancy does not mean that one cannot be successful in life.
- By reducing the stigma against teen moms.
- By helping them get the medical help they need.
- By supporting them to go back to school through the ‘return-to-school’ policy
- By listening and empathising with them, and providing a safe space for them to share.
- By addressing the socioeconomic risk factors at the heart of teen pregnancies – poverty, harmful cultural practices, access to sex education and sexual violence. A holistic approach is required by different stakeholders – the Ministry of Health, leaders of religious institutions, schools, Youth-led organizations such as Mental 360 and the civil society among others.
Below are some of the images from the event.
UPDATE: We recently had this conversation on our bimonthly tweetchats. Catch up with that thread here