By Faith Esther
Being young has put me in an ideal place from which I can see and comprehend what the youth go through. From a different point of view, it may be misunderstood as weakness, laziness or even lack of survival tactics and instincts. The older generations may view young people as petty or even “obtuse” in their ways. It is not until one takes a neutral perspective, that one will see that whatever young people go through is unimagined and indispensable. Several years back in the day, mental health was not a topic of discussion: at least not in Kenya. I thank God for all the campaigns that have been done because they have sensitized people to be more woke when it comes to mental health issues. Sadly, there are those in our midst, who will still associate, confuse and interchangeably refer mental health issues to mental incapacitation or madness.
During the lockdown, many people lost their jobs, loved ones and young people were destabilised in their activities. Those in school had to stop learning and stay at home, while those at the workplace were laid off or faced salary cuts. Many, especially the youth, became disillusioned because they had to adjust to a cruel reality that highly featured lack as the main aspect. The loss of family and friends to COVID19 and other causes did not play as an advantage. Truly, these factors only led to the deterioration of the Mental Health of man, especially the youth.
I feel that mental health campaigns are very important because they promote awareness of victims and also help society in terms of how to deal with mental health issues and illnesses. Mental well-being is very important because most of our activities are orchestrated by the brain. There is therefore a need to protect the mental health and well-being of every individual, as much as possible.
As we come towards the end of May, we need to leave a trace of what was done in regards to mental health as a state. There is a need for us, as a community, to do more in regards to Mental Health. Several crimes committed in the recent past often trigger a question in my mind, “what has become of our society?” It is unacceptable for siblings, relatives, close friends and generally even people to kill each other over very trivial matters. It breaks my heart that a class seven boy can stab a classmate to death over a pen or that a boy can kill four members in his family and a Mason at a go. We have to do something about this.
I understand there are well-known tactics that can help in maintaining mental health, stability and wellness. Some are medical and professional, while others are based on individual personal initiative. Counselling is among the most effective and well known conventional methods: it involves talking to a professional or a confidante about personal experiences, a session in which one can get professional or applicable advice as they attempt to cope with situations in life. Sometimes, counselling may involve medication, prescribed by a doctor or counsellor, which is aimed at helping the patient in his/her recovery. I can testify that it really works. Moreover, most people who get treatment for mental illness recover with time: for some, unless one knows them personally, it is impossible to tell that they have suffered from mental illness before. I would like to advocate for counselling as a method because it works, it is a very confidential process and even after the treatment is done, one is put under close professional watch, as they transition and continue to remain in a good mental state through regular reviews and checkups.
Other than professional counsellors, one can opt to seek advice from trusted people, especially those who may have gone through similar situations, or people well equipped with knowledge in that particular sector. It is important to note that people who are not professional counsellors may not offer the best advice and rather than taking all information as received, one ought to get clarification. Whereas counselling may prove to be a bit costly, there are other methods one can use in an attempt to maintain mental well-being and stability:
⦁ Maintain a healthy and proper diet.
I have often heard nutritionists say we are what we eat. A good diet rich in fruits, vegetables and that is well balanced with carbohydrates and protein will promote good health generally. It also provides the body with the energy and nutrients required for development and general body wellness. The brain requires some of the good bacteria found in a healthy diet, which will in turn boost neurotransmitter production. As a result, one will have fewer mood fluctuations and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
⦁ Regularly exercise.
It has been said time and again that one should exercise regularly. There are so many benefits of exercise, which translate, not only to physical health and fitness but also promote a healthy mental state. During exercise, one produces anti-stress hormones which will, in turn, promote mental wellness and lower the risk of stress, depression and anxiety. Moreover, people who exercise, tend to eat healthy, get enough sleep and hydrate often, all of which promote a healthy lifestyle. Start walking and jogging regularly. Sign up for that gym membership near your home or join a group that is about fitness today.
⦁ Learn a new craft or hobby.
A hobby goes a long way in helping us unwind from life as a whole. Doing what we enjoy will trigger the production of happy hormones. Dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin promote positive feelings like love, pleasure and happiness. A hobby like dancing, singing, drawing, weaving, among others, will not only relax you but also bring positive feelings. A major plus to the side is that one can earn from hobbies as well.
Life can be full of ups and downs and oftentimes we may feel like the downs are more. It is important to get a coping mechanism to survive. We are born to survive and only when we figure the how-to part, will we be happier and be in a healthy mental state. Let us support those dealing with mental health issues. We need to fight the stigma. As a society, we need to have mechanisms in place that promote mental health. Mental Health Matters!