Spreading Mental Health Awareness to Households | Day 22/30

Spreading Mental Health Awareness to Households | Day 22/30
This entry is part 22 of 30 in the series 2019 BLOG CHALLENGE

Mental Health Awareness is now making inroads a lot more online. I’m grateful to see Mental Health elements discussed at length on our timelines and in forums to help curb the ongoing stigma, misconception, and socio-cultural prohibitions and to recruit as many people on the ground as possible to join in the cause.

Mental Health Awareness Month passed by last month, and while I feel strongly about this topic, I could not find myself talking/writing about it. I have mentioned my struggle with postpartum anxiety in passing though I didn’t feel ready to talk about Mental Health in its entirety. But when is one ever ready?

We usually advocate for checking up on your friend’s well being and looking out for the stronger friend as much as possible, but we don’t discuss the dynamics between mental health and the household as often. It’s as if responsibility is solely placed on friendships to handle the affected. Family is the first point of contact in everything we do. So we should also take an active role in giving care to mentally ill patients/relatives.

This is difficult, especially when faced with challenges such as ignorance about the extent of mental health issues, stigma against those living with MI, and mistaken beliefs and myths that MI cannot be treated, even as the healthcare expenditure increases.

Photo by Nikko Macaspac on Unsplash

Some members don’t really understand how anyone could be having a mental illness that’s not associated with Schizophrenia. Therapy is largely frowned upon. You mention any other condition, and you’re probably advised to take it to the Lord in prayer. Depression is “just stress” that you can get in and out of and as for your anxiety, you better “stop worrying too much.”

In Africa, especially mental distress’s direct causes are thought to be social instead of medical. Thinking too much – a blanket description for grief, stress, and depression is associated with intense social problems such as financial worries, memories linked to past trauma, losing someone you loved, or feeling unsafe at home. 

Even as mental health interventions lead to clinical improvements, how do we make inroads in households affected by mental illness?   

Thinking too much is a conversation starter and a point of reference. Let’s start from there and replace every myth with a medical explanation. Talking to family about this is an opportunity to provide information and guidance. They should be encouraged to learn more about mental health issues, including places where one can access Kenya’s mental health resources. 

This leads to improved recognition of early signs of mental health conditions and patients receiving early medical and psychological intervention. Families should focus on neglected issues of mental health and provide emotional and financial support to affected persons.

They should also be encouraged to take a non-judgemental and responsive approach for a greater understanding and compassion to allow their loved ones to feel comfortable opening up about their challenges and talk through possible solutions with them.

Let’s be kind, supportive, and responsive to each other’s problems.

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