As children we are raised being told to stand strong when some unfortunate circumstances occur, although this mostly happens to boys because there are considered as the future men of the family. Sadly society forgets that sometimes it becomes too much to a point that we can’t take it anymore and eventually we get into depression. There are some things we struggle to hold deep inside us, but the body just says enough is enough. Sometimes we even fake who we are because we don’t want to be judged by others. These are mental health issues that arise daily. The month of May is specifically dedicated to mental health awareness.
Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization. Each year in mid-March Mental Health America releases a toolkit of materials to guide preparation for outreach activities during Mental Health Awareness Month. During the month of May, Mental Health America, its affiliates, and other organizations interested in mental health conduct several activities which are based on a different theme (Encyclopedia, 2008). According to World Health Organization 450 million of people around the globe suffer from mental illnesses. But today I want to talk about Depression in particular. Statistics state that by 2030, depression will be the second highest cause of disease in the middle-income countries.
Depression is known as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects the way someone feels, how they think and how they act. It can be caused by a loss of a job, a relative, or even a break up etc. I got the chance to speak to some few individuals who had gone through depression and hearing their stories made me realize that there is something we are missing out or rather we are ignoring and that is the fact that many people are battling with this mental illness. I was able to have a one on one discussion with some few individuals who have gone through this illness and I will share some of their experiences, but will not, due to privacy reasons, disclose their identities.
“It was a really hard time. I used to hear people talking about it and how rough it could be but at first, I never imagined it would be serious. I got into depression after I broke up with my boyfriend and I never talked about it to anyone because I was scared people would judge me. It got into me for a few months but one of my friends realized there was something fishy about me and then she approached me. She helped me go through this journey by giving me some advice and engaging me in social activities to relax my mind from the grievous thoughts I had. “She said.
“It all started when I lost my mom just when I joined campus. It was devastating and I did not have anyone to talk to, so I got into depression. It was a really bad time because I even started to perform poorly in class, I stopped going out with my friends because at that time, I really did not see the way forward after losing my mother, who was also my best friend. But then my cousin came to stay with us and really helped me to get through it and she also recommended me to someone and thereafter things started to get better. And I am happy now that I got out into that dark phase I found myself in and I would not wish this to happen to anyone.” She said.
These two stories are among many others that we would like to hear so that we help each other out. Mental health issues affect our daily lives, relationships with others and with our loved ones. As mentioned earlier, society expects us to be people that we are not. It has made us believe that we can go through anything as long as we are strong. But how strong are we? Furthermore, in the above stories, the affected were scared to share about it because they would be judged for being “human”. The issue of mental health problems is considered as “a forbidden thing” that we are not supposed to address because the perception of others towards us will change. But Society itself forgets that we are human beings who have feelings, emotions and who like sharing our stories. We all have different stories because we come from different backgrounds, and these stories are ours to tell. Depression is a problem that we should talk about. Some people are lucky enough to get better, but some end their lives because they find it difficult to handle the situation.
The issue of mental health concerns all of us and it should be addressed to help others to get out of their dark spots. Our stories should encourage others and teach us not to point fingers at the people who go through depression or any sort of mental illness, instead let us all stand together for a better future. At the end of it all, when “I” is replaced by “We”, even Illness becomes Wellness.
To conclude, I would like to remind you that you can always talk to a professional counsellor whenever you go through any mental illness. Call this number (+254724255169) for any assistance for the Strathmore students. As one said: Don’t be ashamed of your story; it will inspire others.
By Carrelle Niyigena