Stress and anxiety manifests itself in many ways. I have learned from experienced during my many years of teaching adolescents and it has been noted by many people worldwide who deal with teenagers that their behaviour can be unexplainable!!
“....... Students, particularly girls, succumb to bouts of hysteria triggered for no apparent reason......”
I have certainly had my experiences broadened in how girls can respond to these pressures. I witnessed and experienced the effect Demons have had on our girls....A cultural belief which is potent, and very real in many of our girls’ lives!
Wikipedia explanation of DEMONS: “..........The supposed existence of demons, a spirit or a supernatural being........ is an important concept in many religions. In some present-day cultures, demons are still feared in popular superstition, largely due to their alleged power to possess living creatures.”
Having been confronted with several situations which challenged the trust between the girls and some key people in their everyday lives, we were thrown into a situation which escalated into fear and repeated bouts of hysterical behaviour!
Firstly one of our girls became possessed.....then another......then several days later, four more! Our initial victim had been sent home to be looked after by her family. Our girls, especially the boarders as they had been with her during the height of her episode, dwelt on her robotic, paralysing and uncharacteristic behaviour. During the following week they replicated her response!
Having left the classroom, I encountered the two girls who had left my class about ten minutes earlier. One girl was lying on the ground and appeared unconscious whilst the other was kneeling beside her. I went to them and quickly realised the intensity of the situation....still very unaware of why this was occurring! I called to Counsellor Pauline to come and, in the short time it took her to arrive; I was confronted with two more girls. These girls had also suddenly collapsed. They were quickly attended to by two more girls who began praying fervently over them. Unfortunately the bell rang and both classes of Non formals and Form 1’s poured out from their classrooms and were upon us. This resulted in two new cases of unconscious girls who were beset upon by anxious, praying friends. During our efforts to divert the two classes of girls away from the scene, we witnessed many very scared and frightened girls as the feverish intensity of the praying increased to fever pitch. Fortunately Polly was in the school grounds and she and Salome were summoned resulting in their quick decision to remove the girls to their homes and so remove the sources of hysteria. Empathy for the situation was given but when commanded by an adult, each obsessed girl was suddenly able to respond and ably walk to the awaiting car!
I was stunned by how intense the situation was and how quickly it had escalated into hysteria!
The impact of these scenarios was far reaching. Every girl was affected by what had happened. The local pastor was invited to speak with the girls the following day. He spoke positively and from a non denominational perspective, encouraging the girls to rise above the thought of Demons and use their positive thinking to protect themselves. They responded well but it took many weeks and a lot of reassuring and support for normality to return and for the affected girls to recover. This was a challenging process because many of their family members believe that a Demon can jump from one person to another.....from someone who is going through a bad time in their lives to another person who is also down and sad. Their treatment can vary from simply giving them a safe place to stay or, as in the case of one of our girls, taking them to the local Healer who uses natural herbs and medicines to exorcise the Demon. Our suspicions that these remedies were hallucinogenic are still unfounded, but highly likely, as the resulting behaviour was very out of character and very scary for our unsuspecting girl.