Teenage mothers, their peculiarity and perinatal depression
Teenage pregnancies occur in every country globally, but the prevalence is highest (56%) in Sub- Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, the majority of teen age’s live birth before age 18 years is 31%. WHO’s documents further report that 39% of teenagers in the less developed countries give birth before 18 years, primarily due to lack of education and forced marriage culture. However, the issue of focus here about teenage mothers is their mental health.
Teenage mothers are at a higher risk of depression and other mental health problems regardless of being married or not. The adolescent stage is a period of physical and psychological development with many identity crises that could predispose them to delinquencies and mental health issues. These teenage perinatal mental health problems often lead to poor outcomes, including parenting with anger, hatred, neglect, poor child’s physical and psychological development, and mother’s poor quality of life.
Therefore, access to mental health care becomes necessary for a teenage mother. Studies have shown that they experience barriers to accessing mental health care. Still, a study in Latin America shows that youths utilized mobile phones to access mental health care against all obstacles. This innovation is a ray of hope for adolescent mental health. Hence, we also decided to examine the feasibility of utilizing mobile phones to deliver mental health information among teenage mothers in Nigeria.
Ownership, usage, access to mobile phones among teenage mothers
We surveyed 260 adolescent mothers of an average age of 18 years who seek health care in Oyo State, South Western Nigeria. 92.3% of them had achieved senior secondary school education while only 8.8% were married. Their phone use and acceptance of mHealth were examined, and we found that 233 of the girls owned phones where 23.2% of them owned smartphones, while 39.5% owned internet keypad phones with Facebook and game applications. 37.3% of the girls owned Symbian phones, and the average age that they started using their phones was 15.5 years. Just a few girls, 27 of them, did not own a phone, and of these, 22 could access their relations’ phones for an average of 80 minutes a day.
The teenage mothers utilized all different network providers available in their area depending on the network’s strength, affordability, and promo. 85% of the girls used their phones for an average of 45 minutes a day, 8% used their phones to text, while 83.4% of them used their phones to go on Facebook and browse online for up to 112 minutes per day. A small percentage of 3.1% used their phones to search on google for 110 minutes a day and WhatsApp for an average of 104 minutes a day. Phone calls are the most engaging activities, followed by watching movies and calling and texting their boyfriends and husbands the most.
Interest of teenage mothers in m-mental health
Teenage mothers showed enthusiasm in accessing mental health information. Nearly all teenage mothers, i.e., 96.2%, are interested in getting mental health preventive health, and the majority also wanted information on the treatment of mental illness information on their mobile phones. Half of them wanted the information by text, only 10.4 % wanted the information by videos.
Feasibility of mobile phone-based mental health information service
Our study shows quite promising possibilities for m-mental health interventions for teenage mothers in Nigeria. It is the first of its kind to document such findings from Primary health care, which serves the grassroots. From our findings, it is worth noting that the teenagers achieved adequate education to operate any type of phone and may feel more comfortable in activities with privacy. Therefore, their extensive access to mobile text and the internet, coupled with their willingness to accept mHealth could be leveraged to make text/audiovisual-based mental health interventions possible. Hence, mental health policies and programs could equally leverage these mHealth findings to improve adolescents’ access to mental health care even in Africa.
Adeyinka (CARTA Cohort Three Graduate, University of Ibadan) is a chief Social Worker in the Psychiatry Department, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. She provides psychosocial services to psychiatry patients and teaches medical students social psychiatry practical courses.