Mental Health is a Social Issue

October has been a busy month given all the activities around world mental health day. We participated on the day by sharing a new perspective towards a trauma-informed life. In addition, we note that it is important to make space for indigenous languages. There is wisdom in how our communities lived before and after colonialism. We can use that knowledge to help us create more resources in our communities.

However, are we ready to address a big question, “Why do people pretend to be okay?” One of the most exhausting realities of life is politricks. They end up stressing us collectively and keeping our minds forever occupied. As such, our society is constantly drowning in a sea of stress. Checking if everyone is doing okay seems like a very exhausting thing to do. It all culminates in systemic neglect of anyone who is weighed down by the various stresses.

Living in a constant survival mode ensures that relationships are strained or broken. This means that it takes a lot of effort to keep trying to build long-lasting bonds. Over time the whole society crumbles. People living with mental health conditions end up being further isolated from possible assistance.

Lately, religious leaders have been on the news one too many times here in Kenya. They are a reminder of the religious culture which comes with a lot of hypocrisy and covers up abuse. The church has historically been responsible for covering up for leaders and clergy who violate the congregants. This kind of culture is carried down to the family unit. Adults who abuse their children and partners can simply be excused even when they are caught red-handed. After all, they will repent about it. All this time victims are silenced and shamed.

A toxic culture keeps the poor, women, and children in a constant state of hypervigilance. They have to work extra hard for the bare minimum. Over time everyone becomes disconnected from themselves. The sad news is that such a society becomes cold and uncaring. This further contributes to the overwhelming annual global cases of depression and death by suicide.

However, there is hope. Global mental health practitioners agree that there have to be local and international changes. One of the biggest is ensuring fair compensation for labor. When people have enough money to sort out basic needs, they can make space to process stress. The best part is that more people will be able to form social bonds.

As the global conversation around mental health advances, it is clear that resources need to get to the community level. We dare add that knowledge needs to be translated into indigenous languages. The new society will also benefit from trauma-informed healing. This will be especially great to have spaces where we can all freely express ourselves and play supportive roles in our societies.

In other great news, Kenya’s own Dennis Ombachi was featured on CNN sports. He has openly talked about his mental health struggles to wellness journey. He has also explained how community support is what got him through the worst moments. But what is most amazing is his fans witnessing his self-expression and healing through cooking.

“Bones and muscles eventually do heal. But what I really didn’t factor in was the mental toll that it was going to take on me and which dragged on, even up to now that I still suffer a bit from it,” Ombachi recalls. But Ombachi also remembers that what also helped him through that dark phase of life was his hobby, cooking.

Read the full heartwarming story here.

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