Do not underestimate the impact of sexual and gender-based violence on the mental health of teens

Do not underestimate the impact of sexual and gender-based violence on the mental health of teens

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Mental health is a great and growing global concern. The WHO estimates that 4 out of 10 people have gone through a mental health disorder.

Sexual and gender-based violence often negatively impacts mental health, given the ignorance, stigma, discrimination of survivors, as well as the high cost of living and seeking mental health services.

In 2001 during the long holiday season, as a teenage school-going girl, I was lured into a sexual relationship which resulted in pregnancy and dropping out of school.

It was the worst thing to happen to a16 year old girl.

My family and the society at large blamed me for getting pregnant, never even considering that a minor being coerced in sexual activity was defilement, or the trauma I went through.

For months I had sleepless nights, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, fear of the unknown and was constantly suspicious of being talked about negatively by family, friends, and the community at large, especially colleagues from school and neighbors.

The stigma that comes from other parents toward girls who are pregnant and adolescent mothers is immense. Not forgetting that she is undergoing changes in her body and life and require support.

No one even considers that lack of information and inaccessibility of contraceptives could have led to the situation. The trauma related to the sexual violation of girls and young women is enormous, which they experience daily. The COVID19 pandemic only exacerbated it.

The national health coverage (NHIF) is not comprehensive and private insurance policies are discriminatory as per the Kenya Mental Health Action Plan 2021 – 2025 due to the amount allocated to serve per capita.

As youth, we have a role to play in advocating for policies to be inclusive and address mental health for the girls and young women, not leaving behind the role of the judiciary system and law enforcement agents in the prevention and response to Sexual and Gender Based Violence.