Mental Health Issues Know No Age!
By Rutendo Rusere
Mental health seemed like a fancy word, one we never thought we would be freely saying one day but times have changed and so have we. As we commemorate mental health awareness month at Ignite Youth Organization a lot of questions come to mind and thanks to our team of counselors we can now ask anything and get answered accordingly. According to Joe Brown, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices in life.
When Ricky Rick died my sister reminded us that depression is real and encouraged every one of us to open up whenever we feel something is eating us up.
The next month I wasn’t okay mentally and I opened up to her. She shared with me a part of her life that she rarely does, she explained how she used to pick soap at school when mama didn’t show up at her visit day back in high school and how she and our cousin would walk long distances to visit our grandmother knowing on the way back they will have homw cooked food to make up for an empty trunk. She remembered how the food always went bad a little too early even though they placed the mutakura tin in water or the boiled maize in the trunk ,how she starved most of her school years. The moral of my sister’s story was that I should pick myself up no matter how hard I fall because she did the same thing when things were tough and she didnt have the privileges I have today like clothes I want, food enough to feed me and all the ither luxuries. To her I was a cry baby but those luxuries were nothing compared to what was eatinh me up day and night. To her and to everyone else I have it all, my mom all there, working class sisters, good clothes, my phone and my laptop and a good education …what more could an ama 2000 want but to me this is all vanity for what use are all these if im not happy or in constant turmoil with myself and always writing death poems and wishing I were dead? What use are material possessions when I don’t have inner peace? I have seen a lot of people without much material possessions but who are happy and I’ve also seen many who have a lot of material possessions but aren’t happy. So what one owns has no relation to their state of mind.See I’ve realized everyone who is within thinking age is prone to any mental health problem or disorder at some point in their life, depending on their personal experiences but as African people we are blind to this , we only think those married and without food and employment are the ones that should be depressed.
The other time I told my mom I had constant thoughts about death and she said, “if you hang yourself or however you would want to kill yourself just know the police will beat your body up and you will not lie in the house at all .We will carry you straight to the graveyard.” That scared me but not in a good way. I never told her about these thoughts again but that doesn’t mean I no longer experience them. Not that I want to die but I wonder a lot about how each person close to me will react if I’m to wake up dead and it’s as if I can clearly see my mom torn and my dad crying for what he could have but never did .I do not think it’s healthy to have these kind of thoughts at all but I tried telling someone and wasn’t welcomed so I ignore the thoughts but what will happen if I fail to ignore them one day? They will call a sangoma and ask him and be told there was a dead person in the family who wasn’t happy or paiva nengozi yaida kuripwa but is this the case?
We still have a long way to go , I still have a long way to go as an individual but it’s the people around me I’m more concerned about for if they let me be its alright, but if these are the same responses they give their neighbors and workmates then what kind of a people are we?
Mental health should be the greatest thing we should all aspire and wish for, it includes the joy that surpasses all understanding and knowledge, inner joy and peace that helps you cross every bridge that gets build your way and every river that gushes in front of your path. I greatly pray, wish and advocate for a world where everyone speaks up and feels safe to be vulnerable because those around would be knowledgeable of what mental health is all about. I pray we all stop sympathizing when someone dies and start checking up on our loved ones without trying to make them fit in a box in which we fit, a world where we can be compassionate to our loved ones without judging them for surely we were crafted different and just because you survived 2008 doesn’t mean I can automatically survive this or the next year. When I tell you I’m not okay, be kind for it’s only after we join hands and hearts and be there for each other that we conquer the world.
In conclusion, Lori Deschene said , ”you don’t have to be positive all the time, it’s perfectly okay to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared and anxious because having feelings doesn’t make you a negative person. It makes you human.” My fellow comrades this is just the beginning of our mental health journey and after reading this may you take time to look deeper into the people around you, you will see more than I have seen and experienced but may you be their pillar, may you be their shoulder and may you be their hope for even though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.
Rutendo Rusere is the Secretary for Ignite Lifeline. She is passionate about mental health related issues.