I can barely think of a time when my beloved mother did not rush my then toddler self to Gertrude’s Children Hospital each time my stubborn stomach ached with its hyperacidity. I would clutch my stomach, cringe, cry, and coil in pain like a womb-child I kid you not; it was quite a horrific experience. The doctors knew me by name actually, and other times would keep me, their frequent visitor, company.
In contrast, I can easily think of numerous times when my allies and I would sit and talk about the typical ‘African parents memes.’ The specific one which stood out for me is a tweet that roughly said; ‘African parents cannot understand how you can complain about emotional pain because you are alive and kicking, you have food on your table, a roof under your head…’ we probably know how that ends don’t we? The contextual humour in that statement depicts and implies volumes. It proves just how (un)critical mental health is to many. The notion that it is a western problem, or a disease only the wealthy can afford, not to mention unobtainable especially when one’s physical state is fairly fine is totally misleading. Misconceptions can be caused perhaps by ignorance (unknowing of mental health), arrogance (intentional refusal to know), rigid bias opinion (what will mental health awareness help me with anyway, I am doing just fine), superficial understanding (no thorough comprehension of mental health, concerned only with the apparent), among many other factors including upbringing and the cultural worldview.
Mental health to me, is beyond just an uncomfortable feeling, disorder, illness, condition name it. It is too massive to be simplified with wrong assumptions yet majority overlook it on the basis of their firmly held wrong assumptions. The hasty attention we grant to physical discomfort ought to be granted to emotional discomfort as well. Inductively speaking, if that which is seen to be unwell is treated with that much severity to prevent fatalities, how much more deadly then will the situation be when we ignore the unseen? Sometimes it may be difficult to express one’s mental state hence the prompt necessity of mental health awareness. This ranges from empathy to sensitivity; essentially every effort towards psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing of all.
Certainly, mental health is a pertinent issue today that deserves to be the topic of discussion. Glenn Close rightly said, ‘what mental health needs is more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversation.’