Addressing Mental Health among the Youth through Sports

Seventy-Five percent of Kenyans are youth, this is according to NPHS Report, 2017, and they are also the most susceptible to mental health challenges. Most young people are marginalized, excluded from decision-making and processes that directly influence their lives. This disempowerment makes the youth to be easily drawn into violent extremism, radicalization, and also misuse by some of the political class to push their agendas. They are also left vulnerable to other social ills including drug abuse and petty crimes.

Innovative approaches such as sports, theatre, and arts, intergenerational dialogues, single and mixed identity dialogues have been used to awaken the conscience of young people into a more meaningful involvement and participation. It is with that the IRCK and UNDP partnered and held a football tournament in 3 counties: Narok, Baringo, and Marsabit. This tournament was used as a platform to talk to the youth on mental health by health experts and key leaders from the counties. The winning teams were gifted with cash prizes, trophies, and balls.

The young people shared their experiences:

Kipngenoh Ronoh Benjamen who is a journalist was part of the Baringo team

“The IRCK football tournament held on 25/11/2020 at Kabarnet Showground is the best thing to happen to the youth in Baringo County. Coming at a time when many young people had been ravaged by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and had started engaging themselves in harmful activities such as drug and substance abuse, it not only gave them a glamour of hope but an opportunity to interact and be busy. 

James Halkor who was part of the Narok County team noted that the tournament brought together youth from different faiths, this was a show of unity among young people. With such unity, the youth can avoid scenarios of being used for political gains or pushed into violent extremism.

“The speakers of the day enlightened the young people on the effects of these negative practices and encouraged them to use their talents wisely”, noted Ronoh. Halkor added that the speakers helped address issues among the Narok County youth, which include abuse of substances such as Mihadharati, Miraa, Bhangi, and alcohol.

Ronoh added that “Apart from the money won by the teams which allowed the members to start income-generating activities that are keeping them going to date, the beautiful trophy and the ball they won has become a source of encouragement for the teams and a reminder that hard work pays.”

“The activities of the day such as tree planting and visiting Sunrise Children’s home stood out because it created bonds and is a reminder to us on the importance of environmental conservation coming at a time when some residents of Baringo County have been displaced by the flooding of the lakes in the region,” added Ronoh.

Halkor added that other sports events such as volleyball, and marathons could also be considered for the next time such an activity is conducted.

“I wish we can do this again to have a wider impact and transform the lives of our youth,” concluded Ronoh.

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