Mental Health: How You Can Help

‘What mental health needs is more sunlight, candor and more unashamed conversations.’ Glenn Close

I have taken long to write on this topic. It is not an easy one. It affects many of us, whether as a personal struggle or knowing someone who is suffering from mental illness. I strongly believe that this topic should be discussed as often as possible to remove any stigma associated with it.

Recently, we witnessed a historic moment when the four-time tennis Grand Slam tournament winner, Naomi Osaka, withdrew from the French Open due to mental health issues. While there was negative reaction in view of her action by some, others lauded her. In my opinion, her action was positive as it signifies a step towards self-care.

Effects of mental illness do not always end positively. This week, a middle-aged female doctor in Kenya, who was pursuing her Masters in medicine, committed suicide due to depression. There are growing cases of suicide due to mental illnesses. The covid-19 pandemic has also brought many of these cases to the fore.

The people going through such illnesses feel like they are losing their minds. Causes of the illnesses could be as a result of loneliness, difficult working conditions, substance abuse, unemployment, long-term stress, losing someone, poverty or debt, discrimination, domestic abuse, low-self esteem, among others.

In the past, we rarely saw much talk about such cases maybe because we had limited information. There was also stigma associated with mental illness. In my country for example, we had one main health facility for years that handled extreme mental cases that could not be handled by other health facilities or the community. With time, we have seen a growing number of health facilities giving psycho-social support to patients.

Fast forward. Great strides have been made in creating awareness to help individuals, families and communities to identify issues and seek the necessary help. We have also come to learn of other mental conditions that could have easily been dismissed as someone’s bad character. Mental conditions include bipolar (mood disorder), anxiety disorder, depression, psychotic disorder e.g. schizophrenia, eating disorder, trauma-related disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder among others.

Oh how we have misunderstood these conditions. But there is hope and the purpose of this piece is to enlighten you on how to support your loved one, whether family member or friend.

I have a loved one who has been suffering from bipolar. I only got to learn about this assessment much later as we used to assume that he was an argumentative person that he was not understood more often than not. He is intense – in his thoughts and speech. Sadly, because he was not understood and things were not working out as per his plan, he chose a life of isolation. He found his own coping mechanisms, much of which he does not speak of.

This gentleman is brilliant in his own right. His condition however has impacted the meaningful activities he can engage in. He experiences insomnia, racing thoughts (at times suicidal), taking crazy risks, gets distracted easily and refusal to seek treatment in the past.

If his family and friends had understood his condition, it probably would have been easier to manage or handle him. Do not get me wrong. I am not putting blame on these people. They did not know any better. I am glad to say that he has opted to take road to recovery.

Family members go through various issues as they seek to support those they love through these illnesses. The issues include frustration, care fatigue, guilt, conflict due to different ideas people may have on managing treatment and much more.

How can family members or friends support their loved ones going through mental issues?

1. Be sensitive and alive to the warning signs e.g dysfunction at work, eating disorders or withdrawal from social activities. These symptoms do not necessarily mean mental illness but changes could mean that the signs should not be ignored. Read the signs.

2. Show that you love and care your loved one. Voice these feelings.

3. Talk to your loved one about their condition. Listen patiently, reminding them that taking a step to seek help is indeed a step in the right direction, portraying strength.

4. Assist your loved one in looking for treatment or support. Accompany them, if possible, to see a health care practitioner to understand treatment involved and support needed.

5. Invite your loved one to your events or plans, even if they fail to show up. It shows you still have them in mind.

6. Treat your loved one with respect and empathy.

7. Stop worrying about what society will think about your family when they discover the mental condition. They will adjust.

8. Take time to educate others on mental health so that they can understand the issues, and thereby not mistreat or discriminate against those ailing.

9. If you are giving care to an affected loved one, seek emotional support to work through your emotions. Take time to learn about mental health.

10. Lastly, if your loved one has suicidal thoughts, kindly get help as soon as possible.

The Bible includes people who underwent either depression or mental anguish e.g. David, Jeremiah, Moses. They took comfort in God’s presence and assurances. Pray for your loved ones.

  • Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5.7
  • Pray that the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.7
  • Do not fear, for God is with them; do not be dismayed, for He is their God. Isaiah 41.10

Let’s keep talking about Mental Health.

‘If we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and shortcomings instead of pretending they do not exist, then maybe we’ll leave this world a better place than we found it.’ Russell Wilson

Main Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Big Daive says:

    A much needed discussion in our time and age. Thank you Kigumz for speaking up. Many people have no hope for life. May we ignite hope in them by God’s Grace and solely by His Spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kigumz says:

    Very true Big Daive. Thank you for reading.

    Like

  3. Larry Liza says:

    So painfully timely. I always encourage myself that Jesus understands this pain:

    Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. – Matthew 26:39.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kigumz says:

    Thank you Larry.

    Like

  5. Thank you so much for sharing and speaking up about this. We need more honesty and acceptance if we are to move forward as a society xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kigumz says:

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ivan Neshkov says:

    Very timely and informative! Thank you for sharing. I would only like to add that we also spend a lot of time at work and although we cant be the “it” person for everyone we should support anyone in this situation. You never know when you will make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kigumz says:

    Thank you Ivan.

    Like

  9. Collo says:

    Thank you for being very practical about this subject of mental health, growing up we got used to neighbors or even relatives who had been nicknamed “Mwenda” “baba mkali” “Auntie wa hasira” just because they exhibited unpredictable behaviour. Later is when we realize they were bipolar or depressed.
    Question: One Sadh Guru says we should not focus our energy on negative aspects of life, I wonder if by creating more awareness of mental health (which is excellent) could draw others into its dark pits. Where is the balance? is there even one? or is the guru wrong on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mkandili J. Dida says:

    The story about the 35-year old doctor who committed suicide triggered by mental health issues was very sad.

    It highlights we all need to care for ourselves and others who may need our support.

    Also,it is important to check in on people,from time to time.

    You never know,what someone could be going through.

    Thanks for this piece Kigumz.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kigumz says:

    Thank you Mkandili.

    Like

  12. Kigumz says:

    Thanks Collo. You raise a pertinent question. I believe not talking about the issue will not address the matter. We have to talk about this in a humane way that seeks to look for solutions that work, not just dwelling on the negative.

    Like

  13. Kigumz says:

    Thank you Asmin.

    Like

  14. Vio says:

    Just been thinking about my late dad who struggled with bipolar And schizophrenia. It wasn’t easy watching him struggle.
    His employer never understood him and he was eventually laid off. That eventually broke him and he never recovered.
    We his family loved him and did everything to ensure that he got proper medical care and offered support in the best way we could.
    Tough journey but for God’s Grace.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Kigumz says:

    Thanks Vio for your vulnerability. And sorry for the loss and struggle. I am encouraged by the love and care you showed your dad.
    I hope and pray that many employers will come to understand mental health aspects, among other illnesses, and how they impact the employees.

    Like

  16. Asmin says:

    Your welcome

    Like

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