SheRises Foundation

Impacts of mental health – Kilifi County

Unveiling the Complexities: Understanding the Impacts of Mental Health on Young Women and Girls

In the complex tapestry of human existence, mental health emerges as the cornerstone of well-being, intricately interwoven into every facet of life. However, for young women and girls, negotiating the terrain of mental health presents a myriad of challenges and complexities. In this wide-ranging exploration, we set out to explore in depth the multifaceted impacts of mental health on young women and girls, based on a variety of sources drawn from research, policy documents, and project reports. From the depths of despair to the heights of resilience, we explore the nuanced landscape of mental health and reveal its profound implications for individuals, families, communities, and societies in general.

Understanding the Spectrum of Mental Health

Mental health is not a condition of mere absence of mental illness but encompasses a continuum of well-being from flourishing to distress. While some people may thrive under severe adversities, others might suffer from crippling conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. In the case of young women and girls, the journey of mental health occurs at the site of the intersection of identities provided by gender, age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability. Within the changing and challenging tides of their adolescence and young adulthood, they are made to face a plethora of stressors: academic stress, peer relationships, body image issues, family dynamics, societal expectations, and existential questions of identity and purpose.

Unveiling the Burden of Schizophrenia in Kilifi

Schizophrenia is a complex and debilitating mental disorder that still poses a significant burden today. The impact that it places on mental health services in the Kilifi region is disproportionately higher than elsewhere. A recent study has shed light on the prevalence of schizophrenia in the area of Kilifi and underlined the urgent need to increase mental health services in this part of the world.

Understanding Schizophrenia’s Prevalence- In a study that looked into the prevalence of schizophrenia in the region of Kilifi, Kenya, researchers used meticulous data collection from psychiatric hospitals, clinics, and community health records and found out a shocking reality: schizophrenia is the chief cause of admissions to psychiatric facilities in Kilifi. This discovery unfolds the deep impact of schizophrenia on the local people’s mental health.

Implication for Mental Health Services- With schizophrenia being the chief cause of hospital admissions, mental health services in Kilifi are at a very challenging position. The pressure on resources, starting from hospital beds and staff to medication supplies, can be easily felt. In addition, the prevalence of schizophrenia calls for special services designed to meet the unique needs of those affected by this condition.

Navigating Challenges and Charting a Path Forward- Despite its prevalence, mental health services in Kilifi face many obstacles in addressing the burden of schizophrenia adequately. Insufficient funding, shortfalls of trained staff, and the widespread stigma of mental illness are big. Nevertheless, the study calls for a multi-pronged strategy to overcome these challenges. Recommendations include increased funding, extension of training programs for mental health professionals, and the design of community-based programs to combat stigma and increase access to care.

Hence therefore, the findings call on all actors to act together towards the improvement of mental health services in Kilifi County. Using this as a foundation, concerted efforts might be made to strengthen existing structures, build awareness, and foster a supportive environment in which people with mental illness can cope. All these will further enable Kilifi to continue on a transformative journey towards a more inclusive and resilient mental health landscape, while the persons with schizophrenia get the care they deserve.

Policy and Advocacy Effort

Amid the complexities of mental health, policy and advocacy efforts play a very crucial role in shaping the landscape of support and resources available to young women and girls. Globally, initiatives such as the World Health Organization’s Mental Health Action Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals underpin the need to put mental health at the fore as a fundamental part of human well-being. Closer to home, national and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and grassroots movements are making efforts to attend to the specific mental health needs of young women and girls, which include access to comprehensive mental health services, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, promoting mental health literacy, and creating environments that cultivate resilience and empowerment.

Physical Health Impacts

The bidirectional impact of mental and physical health underscores the holistic nature of well-being. Research studies have explicated the deep effects of mental health on physical health outcomes among young women and girls. For instance, people experiencing mental illness are more likely to be at risk for problematic behaviors, including substance use, self-harm, disordered eating, and sedentary activity, which raise the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. In addition, the chronic stress of mental health problems can dysregulate the body’s stress response system, weaken the immune system, and enhance inflammation, which further compromises physical health and resilience.

Interpersonal Relationships

Mental health extends its tentacles into the area of interpersonal relationships, which shape the quality and nature of interactions with family members, friends, romantic partners, and colleagues. In the case of young women and girls, the ebb and flow of mental health can shape the ability to communicate, express themselves emotionally, set boundaries, and build relationships. Mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma, can strain relationships with misunderstandings, conflicts, and feelings of loneliness or isolation. Mental health conditions often have a ‘ripple effect’ on families, creating tension, uncertainty, stress, and sometimes significant changes in how people live their lives. Different family members are likely to be affected in different ways. On the other hand, supportive relationships can be protective in the way that they offer comfort, validation, and belongingness in times of distress.

Academic and Professional Pursuits

The impact of mental health reverberates throughout the spheres of academic and professional pursuits, shaping educational attainment, career trajectories, and economic opportunity for young women and girls. Research evidence shows that mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD, can impair cognitive functioning, attention, memory, and executive functioning, which act as hindrances to academic performance and achievement. On the other hand, stigma against mental illness may render individuals unlikely to seek help, thus leading to poor academic performance, higher dropout rates, and lost opportunities. At work, challenges in mental health are translated into absenteeism, presenteeism, decreased productivity, job dissatisfaction, and career burnout, which perpetuate cycles of economic instability and inequality.

Sexual and Reproductive Health

The complex interlinkages between mental health and sexual and reproductive health weave a complex tapestry of vulnerabilities and needs of young women and girls. Studies have elucidated the profound implications of mental health on SRH outcomes—contraceptive use, pregnancy intention, sexual risk behaviors, and intimate partner violence. For example, it becomes challenging for individuals with mental illness to use SRH services such as contraception, prenatal care, abortion, and STI testing and treatment. Besides, the interaction between mental health and SRH may exacerbate risks of adverse outcomes such as unintended pregnancies, maternal mortality, perinatal complications, and poor birth outcomes. In turn, SRH issues like sexual violence, reproductive coercion, and unwanted pregnancies may exacerbate mental health challenges, thus entrenching cycles of distress and vulnerability.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the connectedness of mental health in a striking manner, revealing the profound effects of uncertainty, isolation, loss, and disruption on young women and girls. Studies have documented an increase in mental health challenges among this demographic, including heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, and increased risks of self-harm, suicide, and eating disorders. The pandemic has underscored pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, heightening differences in access to mental health services, social support networks, and economic opportunities. Moreover, the rapid transition to remote learning, telecommuting, and virtual interactions has disrupted routines, strained relationships, and increased feelings of loneliness, disconnection, and burnout for young women and girls. As the world grapples with the continued impact of the pandemic, it becomes of the essence to prioritize mental health as the bulwark of pandemic recovery efforts in building resilience, community support, and collective healing.

Intersectionality and Marginalization

The impacts of mental health at the intersections of identity spur vulnerability and inequality among marginalized populations in the human experience mosaic. Young women and girls from various marginalized backgrounds, such as racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ persons, persons with disabilities, and those from poor or conflict-prone areas, face even higher risks associated with discrimination, exclusion, and violence due to the intersection of mental health with other axes of oppression. Added to these are structural barriers, including lack of access to healthcare, education, employment, housing, and social services. These barriers compound the challenges faced by these individuals, perpetuating cycles of marginalization and inequity. Moreover, the intersection of mental health with gender-based violence, forced displacement, environmental degradation, and humanitarian crises underlines the imperative urgency to adopt an intersectional lens when working toward closing mental health disparities and moving toward social justice.

Stigma and Discrimination

The pervasive stigma surrounding mental illness serves to continue myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes that further marginalize and disempower individuals struggling with mental health challenges. For young women and girls, stigma may take many forms, such as social exclusion, discrimination, victim-blaming, and internalized shame. The fear of judgment and rejection might push people to delay seeking help, which results in delayed diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Cultural taboos around mental health further exacerbate the challenges that young women and girls face by continuing cycles of silence, secrecy, and suffering. Decreasing stigma and discrimination takes concurrent efforts on multiple levels, from public education campaigns to media representation, policy reforms, and community-based initiatives that provide empathy, understanding, and acceptance.

Coping and Resilience

Within the adversities of challenges to mental health, young women and girls demonstrate striking resilience, tapping resources both inside and outside themselves to cope with life complexities. Such coping strategies as seeking social support, mindfulness, creativity, and self-care may improve well-being and facilitate adaptive coping. Furthermore, resilience involves the development of emotional regulation, problem-solving, assertive communication, and boundary-setting, skills that make it possible for young women and girls to go through life’s challenges with courage and grace. Community becomes an agent of healing, growth, and change by making resilience-enhancing skills, supportive relations, and environments nurturing mental health.

In conclusion, mental health affects young women and girls profoundly, with far-reaching and multifaceted impacts that touch every aspect of their lives: physical health, relationships, education, employment, and beyond. As we chart our way through the maze of mental health, we need to embrace holistic and intersectional approaches that acknowledge the different intersecting identities, experiences, and needs of diverse people. By prioritizing mental health as one of the core dimensions of human well-being, we can generate resiliency, empowerment, and healing together, thus assuring a world where young women and girls may live with minds, bodies, and spirit thriving.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top