In the spirit of mental health awareness, I think it is safe to say that depression and other mental disorders have become a global catastrophe that demands everyone’s attention.
Last week, I read, in great shock, articles online about a number of people that had committed suicide in a span of two days. Four of them were Kenyan, and the rest were from other countries.
I vividly remember the Facebook posts of one Millicent who wrote cryptic messages on her Facebook profile; two of which were farewell notes to her daughter and her father.
Out of curiosity, I scrolled down her page. For several minutes. And I realised that she had been writing disturbing posts quite a number of times; a clear cry for help, dating back to as far as November 2017. And I was so concerned by the outpour of messages on her timeline shortly after the news broke that she had committed suicide. It broke my heart.
You see, the reality about mental health is that it is not exclusive to depression; or mental instability. People get anxiety, panic attacks, emotional breakdowns, mental breakdowns, among others. We see them every day. But we ignore them.
I remember one time when one of my friends and I had grown apart for a while. Without reason. I honestly did not understand what had happened between us, but I let my ego rule the day, and I never reached out until much later. I later came to learn that she had been going through depression for a while; alone. I felt so broken. Perhaps even got mad at myself because I did not understand how I missed the signs, and why I did not bother to make her feel more at ease around me; get her to open up. I felt that, at that point in time, I failed as a friend.
And it got me thinking about a time when I went through some level of anxiety. I remember being in Doha, in a brand new country with a complete overhaul of rules and regulations, knowing pretty much no one and trying to adjust. For an ambivert, things can be quite confusing, you know. Anyway, at that point, only two people understood my frustrations: my husband, perhaps because he has no choice but to understand all my phases, and Idah, my friend. To be clear, I have not faced depression, but I have had anxiety attacks and nearly had an emotional breakdown, and, this period made me realise just how alone one can feel. My support system then was in different countries. It would take hours to reach them.
Later on, it got me thinking about our brothers and sisters that are depressed. I thought about my state of emotions at that point, and the degree of intensity, and I thought about those who go through depression and feel devastated and alone, and I finally understood life.
You see, we think we are great people. And we live in a society full of expectations and judgement. We live in technologically advanced times. Everything you need to know about anything is available in the gadgets we carry around. Social media participates fully in aggravating self comparison and making people feel less than perfect.
On the other hand, societal pressures really do not seem ready to give anyone a break. You have your own expectations of yourself, and so do your parents, your relatives, your friends, your foes, and society in general. It can be incredibly overwhelming.
And while it is easy to put blame on others, I think it is time to look deeper and look within ourselves. We create conducive environments for depression to manifest in our lives and the lives of those around us, and we let them thrive.
Think about all the posts you see on social media on the profiles of people who commit suicide. You will see several people asking about their friends and family. They will ask why the victim never reached out, when in reality, they did. They most probably did and everyone around them was either too busy for them, or too dismissive. You will find people saying that “you’re too dramatic” or “we’re all facing problems, deal with yours”. The same people will be the first to say, “I wish they talked to me about it”.
And I want to call out all the people who desert their family and friends for no reason. The ones who are perpetually busy. The ones who are inconsiderate about others. I need you to know that you create the environment for this catastrophe to hit humanity.
In the same light, you do have the power and the resources to change lives. One by one. Not everyone is strong enough to go through things alone. Not everyone can take the heat and be the Phoenix that rises from the ashes. Not everyone can work it out.
Remember that mental health disorders are non-biased and they are not exclusive to any “type” of people. It could be me. It could be you. It could be your siblings. It could be anyone.
I have done several Q&A sessions on my social media profiles, as well as polls, and I say this from a very informed position: at least 90% of the population has gone through at least one of the different forms of mental disorders at some point in their lives.
Instead of focusing so hard on things that do not matter, focus on your family and friends. Be present. Be available. Be attentive.
Listen to the unspoken words.
Watch for shifts in emotions and behaviour.
All the change we what to see in this world starts with you and me. We have to be the change we want to see.
Mental health awareness does not get the attention it deserves, and I think it is time for you and I to be the voice. To be the drivers of the change that we want to see.
Let’s all say in unison that Enough Is Enough!
A healthy nation truly is a wealthy nation.
You will never truly know and understand what peace of mind really is, until you lack it.