In our SEPTEMBER edition of AJANEWS issue we basically focus on accompanying our young people and ensuring they are in good mental health to cope with the challenges that confront young people today; this includes, various pressures, stress and anxiety around school, friends, social media, family issues, and concerns about their future.
In celebration of this year, Youth Mental Health Day, held on 19th September 2023, under the theme, “#Be Brave”. Being brave can mean something different to everyone, and for young people struggling with their mental health, ‘everyday tasks’ like going to school, getting a meal a day, the young people facing HIV-related stigmatization can become a real challenge. Mental health issues among young people are on the rise, and the young people are disproportionately more vulnerable than before bearing the hard economic times and the digital era in which they are living in.
There are concerns that mental health issues among young people have multiplied in recent times. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2022, nearly 37 million adolescents (aged 10–19 years) live with a mental disorder in Africa, and 1 in 4 children live with a parent with a mental health condition. Most mental health conditions in adulthood start in childhood. This statistic highlights the growing prevalence of depressive symptoms and anxiety among college students, with figures soaring as high as 45% in 2022 as most of the young people believe the moment they complete college, the transition from school to the outside world will be smooth and they will immediately have a job.
The continued use of social media platforms comes with pressure in which young people try to fit in a given space; to keep up with digital trends. In addressing Mental health issues among young people, the infusion of holistic approach aims to educate the whole child; physically, socially, emotionally and academically with the active engagement and support of the community.
Integral development of the young person is important when nurturing them to becoming responsible adults. AJAN HIV and AIDS Prevention Programme for the Youth (AHAPPY) which has been rolled out in 14 different countries in Africa recognizes that all children, particularly those facing extreme adversity, require a range of knowledge, skills, experiences and core values that will enable them to engage as productive and ethical citizens, and reach their potential in life. By engaging young people through the AHAPPY program in discussions and activities that affect their daily lives, we empower them to know themselves and their surroundings better. We can have conversations, where young people can share their thoughts and feelings without fear.
In this month of September, during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) side event: 1.8 Billion Futures: How to Secure the Long-term Health and Well-Being of Adolescents and Young People Worldwide. Experts, on the sidelines of the United Nations’ General Assembly on 18 September 2022, said that “Long-term health and well-being of adolescents globally can only be achieved if governments and organizations start seeing young people for the unique population they are and addressing their needs accordingly. That means investing in youth-specific interventions but also supporting solutions created by young people themselves.”
As we wrap up the ‘AJAN Youth-for-Youth Initiative 2022-2023’, where the youth themselves were behind the interventions undertaken by the 13 AJAN affiliated centres in Africa, we express our gratitude to the participants, funders, and donors for the huge difference they have made in the lives of the young people. The testimonies from the participants reflect the positive impact the initiative has had on youth. The focus of the interventions undertaken by the centres were targeted at providing the youth with knowledge and skills that will enable them to acquire positive life values and be able to engage in various activities, where they could position themselves to support themselves, their families, and communities.
Inspired by the Universal Apostolic Preferences 2019-2029, “AJAN remains committed to empowering the young people as whole in “accompanying the young people in the creation of a hope-filled future,” “To walk with the poor, the outcast of the world, those whose dignity has been violated in a mission of reconciliation and justice.”
By, Dennis Owuoche,
AJAN Communications Officer