Hello beautiful people,
The older I get and the more I learn about mental health, the more I understand the importance of talking about it. I’m certainly no expert, I’m just a girl who’s taken some psychology classes and read a lot of books/articles about it. I make it a point to continue to educate myself about it because mental health awareness is something that is very important to me and it should be important to you too.
For those of you that don’t know, I have anxiety. Some days are much harder than others and it tends to fluctuate a lot but it is something I have to deal with on a daily basis. I won’t go in to detail about it (I wrote a whole blog post about it a while back). Looking at my group of friends/people I went to school with, there’s quite a large number of people who suffer with anxiety, have experienced/are experiencing depression and have battled eating disorders among other mental health issues at some point in their lives. If all of this is only from the small number of people that I know personally, I can’t help but think about the amount of people dealing with the exact same things all over the world.
Seeing as I am Kenyan and spent my first 20 years living there, that’s the place I know the best and what I will write about. Let’s use depression as an example. Studies have shown that there are just as many men in the world who suffer from depression as women. However, a man is far less likely to seek help and talk about their issue and because of this, suicide rates are three times higher in men than women. Why is this? Simply because from a very young age, boys are taught that it is wrong to cry or to show any emotion because “men are supposed to be tough” and crying is a sign of weakness. There is a huge stigma surrounding mental health issues. This is especially true in many African cultures where having any psychological problems is seen as being “possessed” and is treated as a spiritual problem rather than a medical one. This is all due to lack of education about the matter and many people simply don’t know any better.
When I was in year 12, I did some work experience at a rehab clinic and a psychiatric hospital. During this time, I encountered people who were battling substance abuse, living with bipolar disorder or depression and a huge number of people suffering from schizophrenia. Seeing how prevalent mental health issues were in my community and how little information people knew about it made me want to study psychology at university (granted I have now decided to change my major to journalism although I do still take psychology units as my interest in the subject certainly has not died down). The need for educated people to stand up and talk about it to those who are less educated about the situation is very evident in Kenya.
I will always be an advocate for mental health awareness and I will always write about it and talk about it to get the discussion going. There is absolutely no shame in it and the only way to change peoples thoughts about it is through education. One of my biggest dreams is to start an organisation based in Kenya that aims to provide information about mental health to primary and secondary schools throughout the country, especially in marginalised communities where people may never have been taught about it. Since that dream is years from coming to fruition, the best I can do right now is talk about it and hope that posts like this will get the conversation going!
If you ever feel like something is just not right, speak up about it and tell people around you so you can get the help you need. Do not feel like you have to suffer in silence because I can assure you, you are not alone.
Sending you all lots of good vibes,