Arts used to address mental health challenges among youths in Zambia

mental health problems
mental health problems

After several months of suffering from depression, Olipah Tembo, 19, a resident of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, was at the verge of giving up on life.

Tembo, a college student recounts how she started feeling lonely and isolated after being forced to discontinue her studies because of failing to pay tuitions fees alongside other requirements.

“I felt like my whole life was crashing right before my eyes and I was unable to do anything about it. My entire life revolved around my studies. Being in school assured me of a better future,” she explained.

Tembo who recently resumed her studies after a year of being out of school revealed that it was only after receiving emotional support from peers that she recovered from depression. She now helps other youths struggling with the condition.

In Zambia, mental health challenges have become more pronounced now than ever before as evidenced by the increase in the number of people suffering from depression and other mental health-related conditions.

Many more young people in the country continue to be affected by a range of mental health conditions with some reportedly dying as a result of the same.
It is for this reason that Young Men’s Christian Association of Zambia (Zambia YMCA), a youth-centered organization is using performing arts to encourage young people to speak out and seek help.

Zambia YMCA, through its GOLD Peer-to-Peer project, which is being implemented in learning institutions in Zambia, uses poetry, drama and dance to educate youths about mental health issues. GOLD stands for Generation Of Leaders Discovered.

The GOLD Peer-to-Peer project members who are youths reach out to other youths in their respective communities with messages of hope and solidarity.
“Mental health is now one of our central areas of focus. This is because of the rise in incidences of depression and suicide among youthful people in Zambian communities,” explained Zambia YMCA acting executive director Esther Zulu.

She noted that poetry, drama and dance have proved to be effective in sharing information about mental health as they are more engaging and have a longer-lasting impression on individuals compared to other modes of communication.

Zulu further revealed that Zambia YMCA has reached over 15,000 youths in Zambia through the GOLD Peer-to-Peer project.
And Natasha Zimba, a 16-year-old peer educator with the GOLD Peer-to-Peer project observed that peer pressure and a host of other socio-economic challenges are the major drivers of depression and suicide among the youth population.

“Some youths work so hard to acquire things that their economically well-off colleagues have just to prove a point. And when they are unable to afford those material things they fall into depression,” explained Zimba, a resident of Lusaka.

She also mentioned that her role and that of other peer educators is to ensure that youths lead fulfilling lives by not comparing themselves with others.
Her colleague Charles Chani, 17, reiterated Zimba’s assertions adding that society’s high expectations of young people are pushing many youths to the breaking point and those that fail to deliver on societal demands are made to feel rejected.

“Some parents pressure their children to venture into careers deemed prestigious in the eyes of society without considering the impact of such actions on the wellbeing of a child,” Chani said.

He was, however, happy to note that a growing number of youths are learning how to communicate their emotional struggles because of the GOLD Peer-to-Peer Project. Enditem

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