Thu 13, Jun 2019
Adolescence can be awkward, complicated and sometimes confusing, so imagine adding bladder and bowel problems into the mix.
This is the reality for up to 60,000 Australian teenagers who experience incontinence. It’s a health issue that carries immense stigma and impacts self-esteem, motivation, dignity and independence.
Anja Christoffersen, 20-year-old Brisbane model, shares her story for other young people experiencing incontinence
During Youth Week, the Continence Foundation of Australia is urging young Australians to break down those barriers by starting a conversation about bladder and bowel health and taking that first step toward a healthier life.
“We’d like to see incontinence spoken about more openly, without any stigma or shame. This would stop teens living in fear of embarrassment or bullying and ease the pathway to the help they need,” said Rowan Cockerell, CEO of the Continence Foundation of Australia.
Anja Christoffersen is a 20-year-old Queensland model who has lived with incontinence since being born with VACTERL Association, a disorder affecting many body systems including a “plumbing problem”.
“It means I have had lots of surgeries and lots of ‘accidents’, once even whilst I was walking down the catwalk at a fashion show. At school, I felt like I was the only young person alive who suffered from incontinence but through the Continence Foundation, I have discovered there are tens of thousands of young people out there. Now when I give talks at schools, I share my story and ask the students to raise their hand if they have ever had a problem with leaks. You would be astounded by how many hands are in the air,” said Anja.
Incontinence impacts quality of life and mental health for people of any age, but especially for teenagers going through significant social and physical development. If not helped in childhood, urinary incontinence that progresses into adulthood can increase the risk of anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances.
Typically enjoyable activities, like sleepovers with friends and school or sports camps, come with added obstacles if a teen experiences bedwetting or another type of incontinence.
Thankfully, there is a lot that can be done to manage and treat incontinence. Here are some tips for supporting a teen with bladder and bowel issues:
- Make sure they seek professional medical advice from a GP.
- Support them to stick with the treatment regularly.
- Let them know that incontinence is more common than they may think. They’re not alone.
- Help them build confidence by being prepared for unexpected incontinence.
Incontinence in Confidence is a website specially for teens with bladder and bowel concerns. It provides information on the different types of incontinence, who it affects, treatments, where to get help, tips on socialising, staying motivated, tricky conversations, dating, relationships and how to confidently get on with life.
For more information, visit inconfidence.org.au or call the free National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66.