A global village. That is what the world has become, and quite rightly so. A phrase alluding to how small the globe is, despite its vastness and magnitude. Across the continents and the seas, the human condition is the same for us all. Birth and death. From breath to breath. The beauty lies in the moments in between; dark and light moments, low and high, all colliding into what we call life. Factors such as geographic location, ethnicity, culture and traditions that shape respective societies and their norms, all stem from this one species – the human race. From Melbourne to Mexico, from Munich to Maseru, we are all people going through the human experience. In so many ways we are different, and yet in many ways as well, we are the same. The World Mental Health awareness day is a fitting reminder of this sentiment. Commemorated on the 10th of October, the 2019-2020 theme is ‘Suicide Prevention’, intended to incite governments and all stakeholders to recognise the weight of this issue and its effects on society at large. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2019 stated that every 40 seconds, one person dies by suicide.
Instabilities in mental health can manifest in various forms, some extreme and others appearing in milder ways, perceived as deliberate misbehaviour and misconduct, oft times even called “crazy”. For males and females alike, irrespective of age, race or ethnicity, physical ability, social status, or education level, addressing mental health is a matter of great import. In the African context, there has been a long standing myth that mental health issues are a ‘White’ people thing. A mind-set we now know to be limited and false. It is not a White thing. It’s not a race thing. It’s not a gender thing. It is a human thing. A part of the human condition that can affect us all and that none should feel ashamed of. The reality is that struggling with a mental disease is not a voluntary state of being.
There are cases within our communities of households who keep family members locked away from society for different reasons: for the protection of those who are ill; not knowing where one can access services and support; and sadly, a misplaced self-blame that fuels the hiding, and thus the segregation.
Issues of mental health are especially prominent in vulnerable groups of people who go through experiences that can be mentally debilitating and taxing, often over extended periods of time. Many members of stigmatised and marginalised groups bear such circumstances. To those affected, take comfort in that you are not alone, and there are resources available. We yearn for the strengthening of support systems and mechanisms nationally in this regard.
As our nation celebrated fifty-three (53) years of her Independence in October 2019, let us remember that as people, we are Co-dependent. It is important to have a support system. To pull one out of those dark moments, and keep alive the knowledge that there will be other moments of light. We must come together, unite and support each other in building the nation we wish to leave behind for future generations. A mentally sound people is key to building a formidable nation. Understanding that “crazy” behaviour is a sign of illness and instability, will aid in removing the stigma attached to the affliction of mental health. Addressing our mental health, adds to our collective mental wealth.