The effect of the pandemic amongst the youth has been deeply felt across different social and economic strata.
The largest impact according to reports have arisen from the quarantine situation, with Gender Based Violence (GBV), relational strains and alcoholism peaking to new heights.
GBV and relational strains are born from unhealthy relationships, and the root cause is poor communication. We have been socialized to believe that disagreements should and will escalate to arguments, and that the outcome will be one party ‘losing’ and the other party ‘winning’, until the next fight. We haven’t learnt that we can bring disagreements to complete resolution with each party airing their views and a compromise being arrived at.
Additionally, for a lot of people, their ego is more important than the relationship. Their commitment to the relationship is governed by this, thereby creating a wedge between otherwise beautiful relationships.
The three C’s of conflict resolution are therefore:
Be kind when communicating to others, and be mindful of your tone. Be willing to come to a comprise with your loved one, and avoid bringing up a separation in the relationship every time you disagree. Rather, be committed to working through the issues in an amicable manner.
It is also important to understand your anger style, so as to be aware of how you react when angry and intentionally choose a healthier outlet. The three anger styles are: Acting out, displacement and burying. People who exhibit the first style tend to come out and say what is on their minds, sometimes abrasively so. Displacers will project onto things that are less intimidating than the object that caused their anger, or onto things that will not cause them harm, for example someone getting yelled at by their boss, then getting home and yelling at their kids.
Individuals who bury tend to keep things bottled inside. These group of people are the most likely to suffer from mental health issues because things tend to build up on the inside and cause them emotional and even physical harm. Sometimes, we can react to different situations using the different styles mentioned depending on what the situation is, however, we all have an anger style that is typical of us.
People who have turned to alcoholism are equally at a greater risk of falling into depression, because alcohol is a depressant. And as for individuals on drugs such as weed or nicotine, they not only risk addiction, but also a psychotic episode, especially with the increased stressors of this pandemic.
Another negative effect of the pandemic amongst the youth is the increase of cyber bullying due to the increased social media engagement with the restrictions in movement and quarantine. According to a recent survey by on Cyber Bullying, Kenya was ranked number one. It would appear that the famous Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) have finally caught the attention of international media.
It is important to keep your wits about you on social media. Don’t react or engage online in arguments. Remember that you don’t have to get your point across in every discussion, especially if it’ll put your mental health at risk.
There have been positive influences of the pandemic on the youth. With the general slowing down of life’s activities, there has been a considerable increase of time to themselves. There has therefore been time to reflect on what really matters to them. There has been a collective realisation that if push comes to shove, family are who we have.
On matters finances, there has been an awakening on the importance of saving money and being responsible on how they spend their money. This has been an important lesson throughout the pandemic.
We have also witnessed just how creative the youth can be. We have youth making and selling masks with the Kenyan flag, ankara patterns and even fun references, as well as innovating services such as deliveries to adjust to the times.
We also have the youth taking online courses and watching videos, even for those who don’t have access to educational institutions. This has helped them sharpen their general skills, but also focus on particular skills in line with their careers, talents and passions.
These are a few examples of the effect of the pandemic amongst the youth. What other effects have you observed?
Lessons from Gathoni Mbugua, Clinical Psychologist at Chiromo Lane Medical Hospital.