By Cynthia Wairimu
It is said that you must be strong and not show weakness to anyone lest it is used against you to bring you down. In our age, there is a growing façade of happiness, especially where social events and social media are involved, where the idea is to keep smiling, and not broadcast your sorrows to the world but instead hide it all under a mask of pure bliss. This might have worked for a minute or two until news started to show up of suicides, homicides, femicide, angry outbursts to what would be trivial issues and slowly the world started to take notice of the truth behind all of this, Mental Health and Mental Illness.
This topic is somewhat touchy especially in the traditional African societies, where the same is equated to madness, and has brought with it a lot of stigma, meaning that not many are willing to seek out help if they suspect they might not be mentally healthy as they would want, with grave consequences.
Mental illness, like a physical malady, requires attention, care, and treatment, without which, one cannot heal and therefore is not in a position to function optimally in different aspects of life, be it, personally, at work, at home, as well as emotionally, physically and spiritually.
It is important to note that mental illness can affect anyone, at any stage of life, at whatever age.
There are mental health practitioners who are well trained in matters mental health and prepared for whatever may come, including paraphilias, rage issues, confusion, dementia, the uncontrollable urge to steal for no monetary or self-gain, they are aware and are ready to help. It all starts with you. Accepting that there is a problem and then following up with getting help from a professional is the first sensible step. You can always start with a counsellor or a medical practitioner who can then refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist depending on the nature of your problem
It is also noteworthy that there is a treatment which does not always require medication but could involve therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that deals with the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviour and how these can be changed to improve behaviour or stop a bad habit. Corporal punishment or harsh punishments do not aid improving behaviour stemming from a mental disorder or condition; it may even play the role of making it worse. Therefore, getting the right professional help would do you one better or a loved one that mere brute force.
Ignoring or denying the existence of mental illness is dangerous to oneself as well as to others…
Talking about your condition or how you are feeling to someone close or people in your social support system would do you well as it will help air your grievance as well as allow them the place to help you where it is needed. For instance, if you have someone dealing with uncontrollable impulses like to set fire to things, going for one or two therapy sessions with them will help you understand where the triggers are and how to cope with alternative forms of release for these healthy urges
Ignoring or denying the existence of mental illness is dangerous to oneself as well as to others who might be in direct danger of the distress that comes with a mental disorder. If, for instance, one has anger issues and you decide to ignore the signs and symptoms, and this person has an outburst that leads to them stabbing another, it will be both distressful to the victim and their loved ones, as well as to the perpetrator and their loved ones as legal issues also come into play. If one has noticed self-harming habits in a person and they do nothing on the same, and this person ends up bleeding out and dying, of course it will be followed by a lot of trauma, shock and grief, over a life that could have been saved if the stigma was not such a big obstacle, which it doesn’t have to be.
Mental disorders were also existent back in the day, the only difference is, there was not much information to go on, not enough tests and not enough research. Today, we have a lot more of that and it is easier to get treatment now than back then when they would drill your skull to release the demons locked up in your brain! Talk of barbarism. (