Youth use silence to cope with distress

Young people in the Eastern Cape are using silence to communicate and cope with distress, a new study has found.

"This study suggests that young people need to be empowered with appropriate and effective ways of handling distress," said Dr Mzikazi Nduna of Wits University, who conducted the study.

"Analysis of answers as to why they chose to be silent on issues... showed that there is an underlying meaning to non-expression of distress.

The meaning served to fulfil distinct but related purposes, Nduna said.

Psychological distress

The study sought to explore the origins and responses to distress by young people, given the reported levels of psychological distress in South African youth.

The research was carried out in Butterworth and included young people aged between 16 and 22.

Poverty, financial hardships, being orphaned, and not knowing who their fathers were, were among the issues that caused distress.

Youth engage in risk sexual behaviour

It was further found that academic failure, gender non-conformity, substance abuse, and delinquency often caused conflict between youths and their parents, and led to mental distress.

Nduna said silence was used as a strategy for containing a potentially hurtful situation, showing gratitude for accrued benefits, and protecting others.

The study also revealed that young people who felt disempowered and depressed were more likely to externalise their inner turmoil by engaging in risky sexual behaviour, showing delinquent tendencies or becoming violent.

(Sapa, March 2012)

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