Eleanor Lusenie, Communication Intern at Restless Development writes about protecting the emotional well-being of young people in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is a nation blessed with many natural resources – its youth people being the most important of them. Young People make up more than 50 % of the total population and we have strongly stood by our country’s side through the numerous battle she has fought and is still fighting.
The effect of battles like the ten-year gruesome war, Ebola, COVID19, corruption, and underdevelopment has led to stress and depression among the youth and severely affected young people’s emotional wellbeing. Many are turning to drugs and alcohol for a place of solace from the reality they are facing.
The sound of the siren from an ambulance still brings goosebumps to my body, witnessing the way these ambulances were filled with dead bodies during the Ebola outbreak.”
African culture is in such a way that after the death of a loved one: parents, siblings, or friends, sympathisers stay with you during the funeral but after that, you are on your own.
If you are lucky, a family member will agree to pay your fees or take you in but no one will care to know the impact of death on young people. Depression and silent suffering soon follows. This has led to the high crime rate and mental health issues among young and tender youths in Sierra Leone.
It is estimated that 10% of the Sierra Leonean population suffers from mental health issues. This is mostly as an effect of the war, in which young people served as soldiers, some witnessed the killing of their family members, while others lost their whole family in the fight against Ebola. The rise of cheap sachet alcohol and drugs that are readily available among the youths is bothering the socio-economic development of the nation. Not much is being done to control the importation and local production of alcohol and harmful substances into the country.
We cannot ignore the efforts of young and vibrant young people who have been taking the lead and breaking stereotypes that are associated with us. The emotional well-being of young people needs to be protected. It is a fight that demands urgent and timely intervention from all available avenues.
Funding and formulation of policies regulating the production and importation of drugs and alcohol in Sierra Leone could help. In addition, capacity-building of young people to take up the field of psychopathology is important, as there is a very small number of trained mental health workers in the country. NGOs are giving a lot to help fight these wars but it could be much better if we all join hands to fight the silent battle of mental instability.
Eleanor is a field officer on Restless Development Financial Inclusion for Women Living in Informal Settlement Project in Sierra Leone. She has completed 1 year internship as Communication Intern at Restless Development Sierra Leone. She believes in women empowerment and works to ensure that women have a voice in society.