Why we need to stop stigmatizing mental illnesses & start being honest with ourselves

As a young woman today, I have observed, heard, read, and experienced stigma based on how I choose to live my daily life. As a whole we are body shamed, deprived of freedom to be proud in our own skin, and as if that is not enough, we are victimized in our own homes and our so-called safe spaces. We go through a lot in our day to day lives. And through it all we are expected to be strong and carry the world on our shoulders and act as if this is all normal. It is insane how we breathe through the wounds inflicted by those we love, by those we consider our protectors. And ho much we are meant to take on starting from a young age.

We are also raised to believe that we are less than our male counterparts. And in many of our cultures, we are told to respect, submit to and care for the opposite sex more than we care for ourselves. And even after we have done all this we are still seen as objects. So tell me, how does the world expect us as young woman to be strong and stress-free when we live our daily lives clouded by fear and other misfortunes?

The truth is this expectation is almost impossible. Which is why so many of us, whether we like to admit it or not go through some sort of mental health issues at one or more points in our lives. But as with all things that has to do with emotions, this topic is often avoided, particularly in African communities. For both gender sides, age groups and race. Mental illness is not being crazy. It is a medical condition whereby a person’s moods, thinking and behaviors are affected by their environment and experiences. Experiences like trauma, stress, fear, anxiety and so on. Mental illness can show itself in many different ways from light to severe. These include;

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety disorder
  3. Eating disorder
  4. Addictive behaviors
  5. Schizophrenia
  6. Mood swings

Most of the time we don’t even acknowledge that we have these ourselves, and especially in the case of depression. Which many people suffer from in silence and untreated. In these cases society and our communities are only willing to admit there was a problem when it is too late and the person has passed on due to untreated depression. This is not okay, and we need to find ways in which children, young adults, families, friends and the community can tackle this so-called norm of hiding behind doors in shame of what the people will say.

Charles DeBattisa summed up some of the signs and symptoms of depression as:

  • Depressed mood which last for at least two weeks and/or loss of interest in most activities (especially the ones you were once fond of)
  • Disturbance in sleep (prolonged insomnia)
  • Increased or decreased appetite (which may lead to weight gain or loss respectively)
  • Deficit in cognition and energy
  • Intense feelings or thoughts of guilt, worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Still not sure if you or a loved one is depressed? One of the best ways to diagnose depression is by seeing a healthcare professional closest to you. They then can help guide you to someone trained in dealing with depression and any other mental health issue you may have. And whilst it may seem embarrassing or difficult to admit that you are in emotional pain or can not cope with life. It is important to remember that mental health issues are not a failure. And that just because you cannot deal with something it does not mean you are weak. It just means you are human. And most of us, are struggling along too.  

People may try to talk you out of it when you try to explain your feelings. But no matter how much you try to lay down your sorrows, your pain and struggles, nobody knows you better than you do. You are the only one who knows what goes down behind closed doors and in your moments alone. Only you can save yourself by taking the necessary steps. Because at the end of the day, you must take care of yourself. No matter what people say or think. You are precious and worth fighting for.  

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  1. 1
    Helga Israel

    I found this article really interesting and I believe that you’re right, so many people are struggling from mental health and don’t even know it. I have been depressed too and I must say that it isn’t a good thing at all especially when noone around you really cares about your mental health even though they notice it but choose not to give you a hand

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