Namibia: Mental Health - the Elephant in the Room... Imho!!

7 February 2020

As usual, in every chance of my inquisition or pursuit of knowledge, before trying to understand other people, I try as much as possible to understand myself first. I figured that in my instance when I hear or read about mental health, the first words or thoughts that come to my mind are depression, anxiety, panic attacks or trauma. Now, there is no doubt the aforementioned have very much to do with mental health but the question is why is it that those are the things that pop-up in my mind first? And come to think of it, some of the previously stated are probably just symptoms of ill mental health. I would assume that my instant reactions to the mention of mental health could have resulted from my struggles with mental health issues and obviously, that could be the angle from which I have come to my realisation of the significance of mental health as part of overall wellness.

It is quite interesting how it is so easy for physical health, sexual health, politics and relationships topics to pop-up in any conversation and almost everyone will have something to say. Yet, it is weird how silence engulfs a conversation at the mere mention of anything related to mental health. Or, if the conversation accommodates it, it would probably be all about negative connotations or the stigma attached to it. I think I understand why it is easier to talk about politics, sex, relationships, etc because they are much easier to talk about, as they have no deep and immediate or instant influence on the emotional and psychological being of a person. There is no way one can dive into talking about mental health without exposing themselves in one way or another - though not necessary to others but themselves. Just as much as, I think, an alcoholic would most likely find it uncomfortable to preach about the dangers of alcohol abuse without implicating him/herself.

My observation or obsession with mental health raises more questions and introspection on a personal level but, I think, even more concerns for us as a society. How did we get here? How is it possible that there seems to be not much emphasis on mental health in our formal education or curriculum? Or even if there is any mention, how much emphasis are we placing on it to raise awareness? Was it deliberate to disregard the importance of mental health - and if it were, for what good reasons would that have been?

How can we address gender-based violence without talking about mental health? And if anyone can answer these questions, I will probably become enlightened in an instant, I can tell you that.

Now, while we are on a quest for answers to our questions, it would be important to get into what mental health is all about. Since I'm not into "how to" kind of advice or saying I am a self-proclaimed expert on the subject at hand, my view is more of provoking thoughts and asking more questions than providing answers and sharing my personal experiences to kick-start the dialogue. I also believe we are a fortunate generation with information at our fingertips and one best way to empower ourselves is by diving into self-education and thorough research before we are left to the peril of our ignorance. For this, I adamantly also believe it is the only way we can take full responsibility for our mental health and wellness in general.

The same internet on which we share sex videos is the same tool we can use to educate, empower ourselves and improve our lives in unimaginable ways. Although this access to information is as good as it may sound, I would still expect that it is done with the highest level of discretion and discernment or even fact-checking with legit and certified experts. So, maybe instead of the New Year resolution cliché, it is best we start looking at our mental health seriously. This, we could even start by looking at how our work life, relationships, food and social media affect our mental health. This should not be a complicated exercise at all, and there is no better time to start than the beginning of a new fresh year.

By Karlos TheGreat

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