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MENTAL Health awareness

08 AUG



Mental Health Awareness

by Hazel Jieman (IGNITE Youth Blogger & Writer)


I remember how they slapped the daylight out of my sister's face, claiming she was possessed by a demon that did not even exist at all. I lost a friend when she left home in a bad state. One of my friends hid behind the 'I'm on a diet' statement, too ashamed of what she had going on. She even found a job, hoping it'd keep her mind off things but instead, the rate at which she overthought things increased rapidly.

Failure to maintain a healthy mental lifestyle is an issue that is affecting 70% to 80% of the youth. It is sad how the rate of suicide death tolls are rising in our country.
I approached a group of young people and brought up a question, which then sparked a debate, on why men should open up. The debate took a turn and someone said everybody is mentally ill. To be honest, some did not take that well. They said,"Ungati munhu wese anopenga here iwe, ah, hatipenge (how can you say everyone is mad, we are not mad)." This is how most people in Zimbabwe perceive mental illness. It is called "kurasika njere" that is losing your mind. I wore the coat and told them at some point in my life I had had mental health concerns. One asked me how I found out and who had told me. I told her that after careful research I found out on my own, what I deemed normal and just a "passing phase" was something more than just a phase. She said and I quote,  "Saka wakaona zvakakodzera kuzviudza kuti ini pano ndava kutorasa njere?" In other words, she was challenging me in ‘accepting’ the fact that I was losing my mind. To be honest it was not easy to explain everything to them but eventually I had the upper hand.
What is mental health? Mental health is the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is "functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment". Mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life, and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

Then there is the term “mental illness” or “mental health disorders”, what does it mean? It refers to when one cannot cope with their daily life activities; it affects one's mood, thinking and behavior. Mental health disorders include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.

Everyone has mental health concerns from time to time, but it is when we ignore them that they develop into a disorder. Despite knowing that mental health disorders exist, we judge those who come clean and mock them time after time because we live in a society where it is believed that our generation has eroded the African culture and has embraced the Western way of life. The youth have been chided for having a Eurocentric view to life and abandoning the Afrocentric one, and so this has seen an extension to illnesses as well. Apparently, depression and such other mental ailments are “for the white people”. Newsflash! Mental health disorders are like any other health disorders and they affect people of all color regardless of race, religion or culture.


You may ask yourself, “How do we know if a person is showing symptoms of having a mental health disorder?” They vary due to the type of disorder and here are a few pointers to guide you:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people.

Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder manifest as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains. All the same, it is important that such symptoms are picked up at early stages of showing. Failure to attend to these symptoms has far reaching consequences.

There is a great need to build a society where we recognize mental health disorders and not stigmatize them. I am happy to say that at least a number of youth are raising their voices so that we may be heard and attended to in as far as mental health disorders are concerned. However, the fact that 90% of youth in Zimbabwe living with mental health disorders are stigmatized by their own parents, is saddening.

I stand and voice on behalf of my generation, parents please hear us out. We misbehave from time to time and test your patience but sometimes, if not most, we are trying to cover up what you cannot accept for something you can tolerate. As much as we act stubborn and big headed, we still need your guidance and that requires dialogue; and dialogue can only be effective if initiated from a place of understanding.

To everyone, the youth especially, let us make it a habit to open up to our friends and family. Let us be there for each other and strive to minimize mental health disorders affecting us. We are our brothers and sisters keepers and together we can make a difference.

PS: There is a trending statement all over social media, “Check on your friend, depression is real."   I want to add a little more to it, "Check on your friend, brother, sister, parent, daughter or son, mental health disorders exist!"

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Primrose Mapombere

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John Chivairo

2019 Reply

Depression is a serious condition in young people and it's important that they seek help soon once they suspect they are suffering with it.

Cecilia Jena

2019 Reply

Great article! I actually struggled with depression when I was young and thank God for the help I received from counselors and teachers that helped me to overcome it.

Henry Nhanga

2019 Reply

My best friend once struggled with depression and friends at school used to make fun of him. He had to change schools, and took a year off education to overcome it.

Amy Garisayi

2019 Reply

This is great advice! Its the most unlikely people that can suffer from depression.

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