The country cares about young people’s health, as they are the future workforce, parents and economic contributors. Mental health difficulties, alcohol dependence, cigarette addiction, unprotected sexual activity with numerous partners, drug abuse, and other challenges are the biggest challenges for Mzansi youth. In commemoration of Youth Day, we spoke to young people about their biggest health concerns.
HIV and alcohol abuse
Awethu Mivuyo Malo, a student at the University of Johannesburg, says her primary health concerns are HIV and alcohol abuse among young people.
Malo asserts that, based on her observations, the majority of young people turn a blind eye to these health issues.
“HIV is a prevalent issue in our daily lives, and while many people are affected by it, there are still those who believe they are not at risk of contracting the virus while they are sexually active. That’s where the confusion comes from.”
Moving on to the topic of alcohol abuse, it is important to note that many people assume that alcoholism, only affects certain people, but this is not true, she says.
Some people may be in denial about their alcohol consumption for a variety of reasons, such as believing that they only drink expensive alcohol and therefore cannot become addicted or face any health challenges associated with booze, she adds.
Malo asserts that when a young person dies from comparable health problems, we tend to overlook how carelessly they lived their lives.
Insufficient knowledge is another issue
Makabongwe Gwe, a primary health student at North Link in Parow, Cape Town, has observed that there are many health concerns affecting young people that require further examination.
“These concerns stem from a lack of knowledge and awareness among people, as well as various other reasons.”
He explains that his primary concerns are diabetes and lung cancer, as many young people are not well-informed about these conditions.
Young smokers might think that lung issues only affect the old, yet everyone experiences them, explains Gwe.
When it strikes close to home
Sange Mcetyewa, a student at Ikhala College in the Eastern Cape, is concerned about the health challenges that come with having a parent who is living with hypertension.
“Society often perceives the illness as one that only affects older people. However, this is not always the case as even young adults can experience it.”
Mcetywa has also observed mental health issues among young people as a significant health concern. She mentions the correlation between hypertension and stress and adds that if one ignores their stress levels, that might lead to a stroke and other mental health issues.
“I have a parent who is living with a chronic illness, and I also have a friend who has been dealing with it for about 25 years. It can be difficult to know how to help because the effects of the disease can be very serious and even life-threatening. It can be frustrating to see the impact it has on their lives.”
Mcetywa highlights that young people facing depression is a significant challenge. There is a pressing need for mental health awareness and support systems to help them. Many young people suffer silently without receiving any assistance or support, she adds.
Facts about teen suicide
Suicide happens every 40 seconds, while an attempt occurs every three seconds, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Suicide risk factors for young people include the prevalence of mental illness, particularly depression, behaviour problems, alcohol and drug misuse, past suicide attempts, and the presence of guns in the family. At least 60% of persons who commit suicide in South Africa are depressed.
If you need assistance or know someone who is contemplating suicide, call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) at 0800 567 567.
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