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Seek mental health link in teen pregnancies

Thursday July 18 2019

TEEN PREGNANCY

Hypersexuality has never been adequately addressed as people are often afraid to talk about it. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

EUNICE VICTORIA
By EUNICE VICTORIA
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At the age of 11, I was already being lured into sexual activity. My teacher would inappropriately touch my developing breasts every day in the classroom. I did not like the change to my body and I was embarrassed.

MENTAL DISORDER

He would joke about it. We were probably too naive to understand it; there was no one to tell us these things. Or this teacher was not mentally upright and was hiding under the title “teacher”.

Growing up into adulthood, I have come to realise that sexual relations do not just happen; there has to be mutual consent. If there is not, then that is rape.

The high rate of teenage pregnancies does not shock me. In fact, it is likely to increase.

For a schoolgirl to get pregnant, somebody must have lured her to bed or defiled her. But here, what you are seeing is a symptom of something big: Mental health. Hypersexuality is a symptom of depression and other mental conditions.

According to a recent study, about one in every four people in Kenya has a mental disorder or likely to get to have one in the near future. That means he or she is likely to engage in life-threatening behaviour, such as having multiple sex partners and relations with anyone.

Schoolgirls are targeted because they are cheap to maintain, are highly vulnerable and most can’t see the link between mental health and sex.

Most people are victimised when they speak about their mental ill-health; therefore, they conceal it while it develops.

A friend who has depression confessed to me that he is attracted to young girls because that is what his illness demands.

UNCOMFORTABLE

Hypersexuality has never been adequately addressed as people are often afraid to talk about it. In fact, most therapists do not speak about that aspect of mental health. They feel that it could be uncomfortable to their audience or, worse, they might expose their patient to ridicule.

It all starts from the brain. Being a survivor of a major bout of depression, I recommend five solutions. First, let the affected share their story with confidence to anyone who is willing to listen. Just knowing what you went through could save a girl from a decision that would have killed her dreams.

Secondly, a parent who finds it difficult to talk to their daughter or son about sex is the problem. They will learn it anyway — either from someone else or, even worse, on social media. If you are shy, there is always that sister, brother or even friend who can do it.

Thirdly, the devil can be right there in the classroom, like in my case. What strategy is your school using to allow for open communication? Do we have counsellors with whom students can discuss such matters?

LABELLED SINNERS

Fourthly, religious organisations should not victimise such teenagers by labelling them sinners. It is high time girls freely talked about their experiences to clerics, who should initiate programmes that teach girls and boys about sexuality and its implications on their lives.

Finally, the worsening state of the economy is alarming. The high cost of living has pushed many Kenyans into stress, often leading to depression and other mental illnesses that force most people to go for the young, vulnerable girls.

The girls are also exposed to transactional sex with men in the ‘sponsor community’ as they look for pocket money as their parents don’t give them enough.

Ms Victoria is a communications consultant at P & L Consulting and youth advocate. [email protected]

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