Text: Céline Bilardo
Photo: Johann Pelichet

Not all teens should be treated the same way

Leila, 18, lausanne

What does adolescence mean for Leila? “It’s a transition period between childhood and adulthood, when individuals gradually have to gain freedom and independence.” And Leila feels she was stripped of that freedom. “I’ve been independent since I was a young girl. I’ve managed on my own since I was little. When I was about 14, my mother tried to get closer to me, communicate more, but it didn’t work. I was always on the defensive. Our relationship began to deteriorate and become conflictual. Sometimes, it was explosive! When I was 15, I left to live with a friend, then with my boyfriend.”

After a big fight, her parents contacted a child psychiatrist to help the young woman communicate and manage her emotions. To no avail. She spent a few weeks at the psychiatric hospital for adolescents (UHPA) at CHUV.

“I was with young people of all ages and all sorts of problems. We had to do the same activities, but interests and tastes in films, for example, are not the same at 12 and at 16. Some teens had eating disorders, so we weren’t allowed to have food in our rooms. Others had suicidal tendencies, so some products, such as nail varnish remover, were forbidden. Personally, I had all sorts of unnecessary, even frustrating restrictions. Being deprived of that freedom was very hard for me. Not all teens going through a di cult period should be treated the same way.”

Leila explains that she really just needed someone to listen to her. “I think we should let teens express themselves, and then give them advice, without telling them what they have to do, what’s ’good’ or ’bad’. Teens need to feel free to make choices, while feeling the support of an adult.”

Now 18, the young woman has decided to stop school temporarily to devote herself to her passion, dance, while working to pay her way. “I feel like a ’young adult’. I’m happy to be able to make my own choices, but I still feel the need to get advice, to express myself without being judged. I haven’t yet found anyone I feel comfortable talking with.”