As a young person, I realise that mental health is a big part of WHO YOU ARE, how you see yourself, how you feel about yourself, how you act, and how you express yourself. It helps determine how we handle social pressure, how we relate to others, and how make healthy choices. I firmly believe that mental health affects our ability to be resilient and productive human beings.
The state of our mental health as young people is a conversation that needs to happen; in this context, young people should be afforded an opportunity to be themselves, without fear of being judged. We live in a society that is quick to judge; until we embrace unlearning, learning, and re-learning, we will perpetuate the cycle of a ‘sad generation’, which has normalised settling for dysfunctional relationships, in future generations too.
To fully understand the impact of mental health, I have summarised five ways in which mental health affects young people.
Five ways mental health affects young people.
1) Mental health can affect young people’s quality of life.
The foundation of life is made by relationships we have with others, as well as with ourselves, and the two are closely connected. The type of relationships we have with others is a direct reflection of the type of relationship we have with ourselves. Mental health affects how we make life choices, and the decisions we take in order to progress towards our dreams and goals. When mental affects one negatively, they tend to make poor choices; they are irrational, they struggle to deal with challenges; they might lack a sense of direction (or purpose), which then might cause them to take part in activities that are not inspiring them to become better individuals, who have a clear sense of clarity, intention, and ability to drive radical change.
2) Mental health can hinder learning.
Mental health can affect academic performance, concentration and energy levels; it may also hinder students’ participation, if they feel uninspired to carry on with their studies. In my personal experience, mental health plays a role in pushing young people out of the education system; I have seen young people struggling to cope, and as a result, dropping out of basic and tertiary institutions. Having to deal with school seems like ‘a lot’:some young people go from being the top-performing students to poor-performing students. Young people facing these challenges might get easily discouraged from actively participating in their studies, and asking for support: as a result, their learning abilities get suppressed.
3) Mental health can affect the relationship we have with ourselves.
Self–esteem refers to the overall opinion of self; how one feels about their own limitations. Mental health can eat away at your confidence, and make you look down on yourself- it’s like that voice in your head never stops criticising you! When it this stage, nothing you do seems good enough in your eyes, you feel as though you’re below average, because you constantly undermine your abilities.
It can cause one to be complacence, be afraid to make bold changes which would positively benefit you. My father often says ‘’ whoever is against change is an enemy of transformation’’ – and that is what negative mental health is to a person,;it attacks your ability to tap positively in self in order to drive a meaningful impact.
Mental health might trigger harmful behaviours.
Harmful behaviours refer to any action which cause pain or harm in someone else. Many young people have resorted to excessive use of alcohol and substance as a means to numb their pain, disappointments and life’s challenges; others get involved in criminal activities, or interpersonal violence. We need to be mindful about our the behaviours and question what benefits they are bringing into our lives, and whether they encourage us to lead meaningful lives.
Mental health can strain family connections and relationships.
Because of the lack of knowledge regarding mental health, family members might not be able to provide support to their loved ones. who are struggling with mental healtjh. The family relationship gets challenged to a point of socially isolating the young person who is suffering.
Help can be found
Luckily, there are services that young people can access to seek help and support – check this site for a curated list of services.
As young people, it’s urgent that we promote genuine openness without judgement within our families’ structures, social and workspaces, to give visibility to positive ways to cope with mental health, whilst raising necessary awareness.
About Palesaentle Ramonyalioa
Palesa is an outspoken young woman, who is deeply invested in people and community development. Based in the Free State, she is invested in empowering fellow young people through written and spoken word. Part of what she does within her community is creating platforms for growth, personal development & leadership. Palesa was selected to be one of the 50 National Youth Resilience Initiative Ambassadors.
About the National Youth Resilience Initiative
The National Youth Resilience Initiative (NYRI) is a multi-stakeholder programme driven by various national actors from government, civil society, academic and development cooperation that coordinates and implements a holistic approach to strengthening the resilience of young people in South Africa. The initiative aims to ensure that South African youth are empowered to responsibly strengthen youth resilience, especially amongst the most vulnerable young people, to proactively contribute to building a capable South Africa during Covid-19 and beyond.