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Youth faced reproductive, mental health challenges in lockdown: survey

A majority of the young women who participated in a recent Population Foundation of India (PFI) survey in Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh reported that they were not able to sufficiently access sanitary pads during the COVID-19 lockdown.   | Photo Credit:

A majority of the young women who participated in a recent Population Foundation of India (PFI) survey in Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh reported that they were not able to sufficiently access sanitary pads during the COVID-19 lockdown. Facing the additional challenges of economic insecurity, family clashes and increased domestic chores, more than one in five men and women between the ages of 15-24 reported experiencing depression across the three States during the lockdown.

Also read: How to battle depression

The rapid assessment survey carried out in May last collected responses from more than 800 young people in the three States through a questionnaire on a mobile platform. It aimed to assess the challenges to mental and reproductive health faced by adolescents and young adults due to COVID-19.

About 22% of young people said they experienced depression due to the lockdown, citing factors such as worry about the lack of job opportunities, delay in completing their studies, family pressure and lack of privacy and isolation away from friends.

Young women faced a “double burden” in many instances, said the PFI report, with 51% of girls reporting an increased workload of household and domestic chores due to the lockdown in comparison to 23% of boys. Young women were also more likely to report an increase in domestic fights as families were stuck within the home due to the pandemic.

Also read: Stress and anxiety rise amid coronavirus pandemic

The closure of schools, which are a source of menstrual health care for girls, may be a reason why 56% of young women said they had an unmet need for sanitary napkins. The problem was most acute in Rajasthan (73%) and Bihar (55%). In U.P., less than 20% of female respondents expressed this concern. Only 5% of young people were aware about family planning contraceptives being distributed by front line workers in Rajasthan. In U.P. and Bihar, the awareness was above 40%.

“Frontline workers need to be equipped with better resources to effectively and continually deliver reproductive health services. Furthermore, to ensure that reproductive health services are not interrupted, there is a need to continually reiterate at the level of public discourse that reproductive health is a fundamental and inalienable aspect of public health, and that its quality delivery is not a choice but a requirement, especially in times of a public health emergency,” said the PFI report.

The frontline worker, usually an ASHA worker, was also one of the primary sources (49%) of information for young people about COVID-19 symptoms, as well as mental health issues.

About 90% of respondents knew at least two symptoms of COVID-19, followed mask wearing, social distancing and hand-washing norms, and were willing to assist in contact tracing if infected.

The top source of information about COVID-19 remained television (61%) and press briefings (42%), followed by Whatsapp (30%). Only 6% found information from the Aarogya Setu mobile app, while 11% got information from schools.

“There is a need to reimagine educational institutions in a way that fosters deeper connections and interactions with students that are not limited to them being in school or the school being in academic session,” said the PFI report. “One way forward is to explore WhatsApp groups and communities. Training educators to deliver mental healthcare can strengthen a closer interaction between students and educational institutions.”


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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 2:43:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/youth-faced-reproductive-mental-health-challenges-in-lockdown-survey/article32327971.ece

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