The mental health of the Kenyan youth, who comprise of 36 per cent of the entire Kenyan population, has been proven to be staggering. This is according to the ministry of health (MOH) who report that many adolescents and young individuals in Kenya are exposed to stress, anxiety, depression among other mental health issues.
In the past few years, Kenya’s population has been growing steadily at an estimated rate of 2.2 per cent per year. Unfortunately, population growth has overtaken economic growth and even development. According to a published report from the United Nations, the median age in Kenya as of 2020 was 20.1 years. Indicating clearly that a huge chunk of the population is young.
Increasing population has inevitably strained the available resources in the country, reducing the possibilities of the country. This has been accompanied by many negative effects even before the CoronaVirus pandemic struck. Unemployment of resources, social issues and costs live in the long run even after the factors causing them have been dealt with. All these leading to one big problem – Poverty
In Kenya, many people are living below the poverty line. Not being able to afford the basic biological needs such as food and clothing leave alone access to clean water. This has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic which has been a nightmare globally. People losing livelihoods, loved ones and even their financial muscle. Everyday proving to be more difficult especially for people living in low income neighborhoods – slums and rural areas.
Most affected are young people who are full of potential and human capital but then they can’t find progress. According to data from Statistica, youth unemployment in Kenya was 7.27% as of 2020. Idleness and tough times forces them into mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. They then end up exploring other alternatives eg. drug and substance abuse which affects them even more. Research shows that many Kenyan adolescents are depressed with very few people having access to clinicians.
In the midst of the pandemic last year, many teenage girls in rural areas and poor neighborhoods were exposed to pregnancies. For instance in the coastal area of Kenya, 946 girls got pregnant with only 388 girls going back to school. Motherhood comes with a lot of responsibilities which might be overwhelming for any young girl in their teens. This affects their mental fitness since they now have to operate and think like mothers. Transitioning from a normal teenage girl to a mother in the midst of a pandemic is a nightmare.
Moreover, many young females are facing period poverty. Not being able to afford sanitary towels. This forces them to use odd and unhealthy means to satisfy the natural need. Some go to the extent of selling their bodies in exchange for money so that they can satisfy this and other needs. This implants a toxic mentality in their minds – that there must always be a trade-off for them to get any good thing in life.
Young people in Kenya are also dropping out of school at an early age because of money issues. Not accessing quality education since they’ve been born and raised in poverty. This means they’ll lack many skills, struggle to get jobs and then be trapped in the vicious poverty cycle. Such people not only lack skills, experience and knowledge but also the mental fitness that will help them advance in their careers and lives.
A Lot needs to be done to help the young people especially in low income regions such as Kenya cope and outgrow the challenges they face. And all these policies should be focused on improving their mental well being. When this is done, an unintended societal benefit will be experienced. Challenges will always be there, how we respond to them is all that matters.
Featured image Credit: The Daily Star