The rise in the number of suicide cases among adolescents in Kenya is something that the education sector needs to pay close attention to. It is time we sensitized all education stakeholders, especially parents and teachers who spend most of their time with adolescents about what is expected of them so that they cannot blow things out of proportion. Therefore, it is time we learnt to let go some of the minor mistakes made by adolescents, or at least try to understand them given the face they are going through in life. Below is a detailed description of the adolescence stage, the challenges associated with it and how they can be overcome.
Adolescence is a phase of development during which an individual undergoes a transition from childhood into adulthood. It is thus characterized by issues of independence, identity crisis, sexuality and the desire to establish and maintain social relationships. For most girls and boys, adolescence is a very crucial period in their lives. It is usually characterized by good physical health and accelerated growth. However, this period brings along a few challenges that may alter the individual. This article thus expounds on the challenges associated with this period.
CHALLENGES/ PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ADOLESCENCE
The most common problems associated with this stage include:
Growth and developmental challenges- the most common growth and developmental challenge among adolescents is obesity. It refers to the body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than the 95 percentile for a person’s age and gender. Although genetics and some disorders cause obesity, most adolescent obesity results from a lack of physical exercise and consuming more calories than needed for the body activity level. Eating a nutritious diet and increasing exercise help treat obesity.
Eating disorders- this is common among girls. It involves the disturbance of the adolescent’s eating patterns ranging from the choice of food, quantity all the way to making themselves to vomit or taking a laxative. This is dangerous since it can cause significant harm to the individual. Eating disorders are more common among women, especially younger women, than among men.
Thought disorders such as schizophrenia are also common during this stage. Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder involving abnormal thoughts, perceptions and social behaviour which leads to relationship challenges. It lasts six or more months. Adolescents with schizophrenia normally withdraw; begin having strange emotions, hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. Antipsychotic drugs can help control symptoms, and counselling can help adolescents and family members learn how to manage the disorder
Mood disorders- mood dysregulation disorder involves persistent irritability and frequent occurrences of behaviours that are uncontrollable/out of control.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder- this happens when the adolescent has got inclination towards defiance. It is a recurring pattern of negative, defiant and disobedient behaviour which is often directed to any sources of authority. Adolescents with oppositional defiant behaviour are often stubborn, disobedient, irritable but not physically aggressive and generally difficult to deal with.
Anxiety disorders- they are characterized by unnecessary tension and worry which can greatly alter the normal functioning of the individual. In many cases, the child may refuse to attend school citing physical discomforts such as headaches and stomachaches. Behavioural therapy is often recommended, but if anxiety is severe, drugs may be needed.
Psychosocial disorders- this refers to psychological and social challenges particularly involving behaviour and school-related issues that are common during adolescence than any other time in life.
Pregnancy- majority of our adolescents often engage in pre-marital sex without being fully aware of contraception, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They thus act on impulse hence decreasing the likelihood of safe sex. This results in unplanned pregnancies among girls.
The search for identity and independence-adolescents exercise their independence by questioning or disregarding set rules and regulations. This problem can manifest itself through regular drinking, fights, truancy or theft.
Drug and alcohol abuse- it ranges from experimentation to severe substance use disorders. Most adolescents try to find out how it feels when abusing drugs especially smoking. Such behaviour may result in problems, such as accidents, fights, unwise or unwanted sexual activity, and addiction. Moreover, adolescents are vulnerable to the effects of substance use and are at increased risk of developing long-term consequences, such as mental health disorders, underachievement in school, and a substance use disorder
Depression- it includes feelings of sadness, irritability and/or loss of interest in any activities. If the adolescent is experiencing a major depression then these symptoms may last for two or more weeks and thus interfere with the individual’s normal functioning or cause a lot of distress.
Suicidal ideation- thoughts and plans about suicide usually referred to as suicidal ideation is more common during adolescence. Suicidal behaviour is any action that is intended to harm oneself. Family members should, therefore, take all suicide attempts and threats from adolescents seriously.