BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for April, 2018

Social inclusion is related to mental health in that its absence can lead to poor mental health, and poor mental health can also result in social exclusion. People with mental health problems are often stigmatized and excluded socially in the community… this should not be the case. Given their condition, they need all the support they can get from everyone around them, especially in their community.

Social inclusion is a phrase used to describe the extent to which people are carried along or feel engaged and involved in the activities within their community, based on their choices and preferences. To be socially included means to actively participate, have a sense of belonging, be accepted for whom one is, be valued, have significant roles and have social relationships. It is possible to be born, grow, work, school and live in a community without being, or feeling socially included- especially for people with poor mental health conditions. Social inclusion is a significant social determinant of health which increases the likelihood of happiness, healthiness, peace of mind and longevity. Simultaneously, the lack or absence of social inclusion results in depression, isolation, poor self-esteem and poor health- particularly poor mental health. Mentally challenged people experience life very differently as they are often ignored and do not have any “sense of presence or belonging” in the community. They may also lack access to information, facilities and activities they need, including education and healthcare- which in turn results in lack of opportunities to work, play, learn and participate socially or develop social relationships with people in the community.

Mental health consists of, and influences various components of an individual including the emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It determines one’s thoughts, feelings, action and participation as well as how a person handles stress, relates to others and makes choices. Everyone- including children, adolescents and adults, can be affected by mental health at any stage of life. Factors that affect mental health include genetic composition, life experiences, such as trauma or abuse and family history of mental health problems. Broad symptoms that may suggest an impending mental health problem include poor eating habit, low energy, numb feeling, unexplained aches, hopeless or helpless feelings, excessive use of drugs and alcohol, confusion, forgetfulness, anxiety, anger, worry, severe mood swings, hallucination, hearing voices, self-harm or the thought of it and fear.

Social inclusion can help youth with already existing mental health condition lead a healthier and happier life. It allows them reach their full potential, cope with the stress, work productively, participate and contribute meaningfully to their communities- irrespective of their condition. Connecting with people (social inclusion), in addition to inspiring positive thoughts, physical activity, sleeping and skill development are some common ways to support youths with mental health conditions. Since social inclusion is crucial for positive mental health, it is very important to address the barriers and challenges that reinforce it. Various pathways to social inclusion exist, and of particular significance is recreation due to the meaningful connections that recreation can facilitate.

An early pregnancy is typically classified as any pregnancy occurring in teenagers and adolescents, usually between the ages of thirteen and nineteen (13 and 19). Girls at this age are too young, unprepared and uniformed to manage their situation and progress towards safe delivery. Furthermore, their emotional, psychological and social needs are greater, and more delicate than those of older women. Early pregnancy is a global problem present in all social classes, and in many countries including high, middle, and low income countries. Worldwide, majority of teenage and adolescent pregnancies occur in developing countries, rural areas and marginalized communities. This is mostly caused by poverty, lack of education, early marriage, lack of employment and absence of relevant public health information. Over 20 million girls, below the age of 19 years, become pregnant and give birth in developing regions annually.

Many teenage and adolescent girls face social pressure to marry and have children; about 15 million girls marry by the age of 19 yearly, and they account for 90% of early pregnancies. For others, pregnancy and childbirth occur out of wedlock, so are neither planned nor wanted. Irrespective of marital status and intentions, the leading cause of death for 15-19-year-old girls globally is complications from pregnancy and childbirth. About 23 million girls in developing countries lack access to modern contraceptive; consequently, half the pregnancies among girls in these countries and regions are estimated to be unintended.

Despite the 0overall progress in the decline of global adolescent birth rate from 65 births per 1000 women in 1990 to 47 births per 1000 women in 2015 due to the growth of global adolescent population, projections show that the number of adolescent pregnancies will go up by 2030- particularly in Africa. More so, there has been unequal progress in reducing adolescent birth rates in various regions as shown below:

  • 115 births per 1000 women in West Africa
  • 64 births per 1000 women in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • 45 births per 1000 women in South-Eastern Asia, to a low of 7 births per 1000 women in Eastern Asia

There are several health, social and economic consequences of early, teenage or adolescent pregnancy. It remains a major cause of maternal and child morbidity and mortality, it also results in intergenerational cycle of ill-health and poverty. Adolescent mothers have higher risks of infections, eclampsia and puerperal endometritis, compared to older women. In addition, about 3.9 million unsafe abortions occur among them each year, contributing to maternal mortality and long-term health problems. Babies born to adolescent mothers may have higher risks of low birth-weight, premature delivery and serious neonatal conditions. Adolescent pregnancies also have negative social and economic effects on girls, their families and communities at large. Single pregnant adolescent girls may experience stigma and rejection by their families and friends leading to school drop-out and limited opportunities for employment and self-development, often perpetuating cycles of poverty. Similarly, their married counterparts are more likely to experience domestic violence compared to older women.

The following can reduce early pregnancies and corresponding consequences:

  • Delaying marriage until after the age of 18 years; it is estimated that about 10% reduction in child marriage could contribute to a 70% reduction in a country’s maternal mortality rate
  • Creating awareness and providing support to reduce pregnancy in females less than 20 years
  • Promoting abstinence or the accessibility and use of contraception by adolescents at risk of unintended pregnancy; this could avert a total of 2.1 million unplanned births, 3.2 million abortions, and 5600 maternal deaths annually
  • Reducing forced sex and unsafe abortions among adolescents
  • Increasing the use of skilled antenatal, childbirth and postnatal care among adolescents
  • Introducing stern punishments for rape

Youths are the most populous group of individuals in the world today; even more so when considering the fluid and often broad definition of the word, youths. Consequently, this group possesses the power to shape the future of every society where they exist as well as the world at large. The UN projects that the economic growth following youth empowerment, education and employment will be unprecedented as seen in some Asian countries.
To experience the dividends and benefits of youths through empowerment, education and employment, countries must invest in empowering programs, affordable education and employment opportunities to the advantage of their young people. According to the UN, there are approximately 1.8 billion young people in the world today, representing a bewildering amount of human potential. Unfortunately, too many of them are trapped in poverty, with limited opportunities to go to school, work or learn a skill to earn a decent living. It is deeply disheartening that the group with the highest potential, given their age, strength, brains, population and willingness is often presented with the least opportunities for personal growth and development. A fact to buttress this point is that over 74 million young people worldwide cannot find work.
Given the many benefits of investing in youths, every country needs to make it a national priority.

Youth empowerment is defined as the outcome by which youths- seen as change agents, acquire the skills to impact their own lives, the lives of other individuals as well as their communities or environment. An example of a youth empowerment program is the YES program which uses a three-pronged approach that effectively engages youth in work that challenges them to develop skills, gain critical awareness, and participate in opportunities that enable them to create change. In the context of YES, skill development is the process of strengthening youths so that they know how to effectively make decisions, positively interact with their peers, and act as community advocates or change agents. Critical awareness involves providing resources such as training and information that equip youths to better analyze issues that affect their lives and communities as well as strategize on ways to change them to their advantage. Opportunity means availing youth with platforms for engagement, decision-making and encouraging their active participation in creating community change

Youths desire and deserve better options and opportunities in life. To express this, many of them take risks by migrating, engaging in illegal businesses, sex trade or robbery in order to afford a decent life. The means by which youths are engaged today determines the prospects for future sustainable development. Taking advantage of the potential of youths as change agents requires involving and empowering them in development, education, employment, policies as well as supporting their participation at all levels. If youths in developing countries such as Nigeria are given the opportunity to realize their full potential, there would be significant economic gains. The more young people grow into well-educated adults, the more they are able to accelerate economic growth and development. It is estimated the African continent in general would add up to about $500 billion per year to its economy for as many as 30 years, if youths are given their rightful place.

What is participation/youth participation?

Participation is a fundamental human right- everyone deserves an opportunity to engage meaningfully in his or her community. It involves engaging and taking part in social, economic, financial and physical developmental activities that occur in a given community and society.  Active participation empowers young people and enables them to play vital roles in their personal development as well as in that of their communities. It also helps them to acquire vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and promote positive community action. To effectively participate in any community, young people must be empowered and given the proper tools including information, education and accessibility. To ensure that youths participate in decision-making is a priority area of the UN agenda on youth.

How can youths participate and in what ways can they do so?

It is important to collectively and better understand what youth participation involves as well as how it can be implemented for youths of all ages. In any society, it is a well-known fact that youths are the major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation. Youth participation can be strengthened by ensuring that youths are involved in every aspect and stage of activities including planning, implementation, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of instruments, strategies and programs. Additionally, youth participation can be improved through several approaches such as education, information sharing and capacity building. Using old and modern inclusive technology mediums such as short media messages and internet, youth-friendly information and resources can be developed by or with young people themselves. This gives them some sense of belonging and helps them understand their importance and relevance. When youths are involved in planning and decision-making, activities are more likely to be attractive, relevant and enjoyable for them. Involvement increases the efficiency, effectiveness of programs as well as their attendance, display good behavior, improved self-esteem and skill acquisition. It is also essential to involve every youth including youths with disabilities.

What are the benefits of youth participation?

To guarantee the perpetuation of youth participation, United Nations adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), an international strategy to more effectively address barriers, and increase opportunities for participation in the society. Subsequent WPAY resolutions deal with policies and programs that involve youth and promote their participation in social and economic development. Youth participation is important and has benefits for the young people themselves, the youth group and community as a whole. Young people become more confident and enthusiastic when they see that their views are being taken seriously and acted upon. Finally, youth participation strengthens personal and social development and promotes a more democratic society.