There has been an increased surge on the attention of mental health globally. Politicians and celebrities have been coming forward to acknowledge their struggles with mental health and also to offer support to those struggling. Recently we saw tennis queen Naomi Osaka skip the French open citing her mental health challenges. This did stir a debate with mixed reactions with some people lacking in empathy while others even corporates backing up the star and commending her for her courage in owning her mental health experiences.
This got me wondering, why is it that we don’t perceive mental health as other health challenges? why is society especially in Africa so disconnected with this part of us? After hours of introspection and talking to a few friends below are some of the reasons mental health is still a challenge;
- Social Stigma
Many people fail to discuss their struggles or even get help because of the discrimination associated with mental issues. People struggling with mental illnesses have all been casually classified as weak in cases of depression or “mad” for those who struggle with other manifestations of mental illness.
- Accessibility to treatment
Sadly a majority of people have shied away from getting treatment due to the cost attached to it. For instance, the average consultation fee for a clinical psychologist is about Ksh. 2000 which may be out of reach for most people. Many people also have no clue on where to access specialty treatment with the most popular mental institution ( Mathari hospital) being an undesirable option.
We could go on listing all the issues around this topic but how about we discuss how we can change the narrative.
- A little empathy goes a long way
Mental illness is like any other. Let’s all end the stigma and unnecessary biases. Be more kind and extend help to those of us who are affected directly or indirectly. There is no shame in illness.
- Seek medical help
There is no one shoe fits all treatment for mental illness just like in other illnesses. Credible hospitals should be able to point you in the direction of the right physician. Proper diagnosis will lead to right treatment.
Finally, always remember it gets better and you are not alone. Ask for help, speak up !