7 min

Mental Health: Wellbeing and Happiness Series with MoNya-Mental

By Mertha Mo Nyamande

The family as an institution forms the basis of all our structures and support networks as social and emotional beings. We are born into families that extend and maintain certain links for the continuity of our livelihoods, physical and mental health.

Mum and dad will have their own parents and siblings that form part of our cultures and how we are supported growing up.

Parents are not always available, and therefore, siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbours, trusted and established social spaces that we frequent regularly play a vital role in providing guidance that extend nurturing.

In the concept of schema formulation, mum provides certain attributes, equally important but different to what dad provides before a child enters external socialisation.

These are essential for our growth and development, and help shape our core personas, but without the extended support of family members and other associations, statutory services type interventions will become necessary though not ideal, as no parent is dispensable to every child’s upbringing.

When we are born, certain family dynamics already exist that can strengthen or break our attachments.

These dynamics are often avoided or misunderstood, thereby enforced by power imbalance instead of mutual agreements, through explanations and leading by example so that respect is earned not given because of rank in the institution.

Patriarchy (Discipline, Boundaries, Structure) vs Matriarchy (comfort, Care, Attention)

Challenge vs Support

Conversely, being of dominant paternal parentage, mated with a spouse of dominant maternal parentage can create conflict in how balancing the dynamics in the home can be achieved. This imbalance is often associated with difficult internal relationships that compromise interactions and support to be given to minors and extended family needs.

When one is struggling, it becomes very difficult for them to effectively extend a helping hand to others.

Most families struggle to understand the concepts around the family life cycle as these are not generally taught and therefore the issues of dependency, mum and dad’s disharmony, including that of their own families and siblings, sibling rivalry and the role of rank in the birth order among the children, especially the first born, middle-child and last-born syndromes often turn family members against each other, normally when the uniting force (usually a parent, or a child) is no longer present or effective.

When this happens, support networks that should naturally exist are destabilised and eventually break down, creating lineage rifts and cliques within families and between siblings and the internal dialogue is conflicted as some of these dynamics are inherited.


The failure of external family support compromises both the parent and the child/ren involved as they both become overwhelmed with highly expressed emotions without adequate time to neutralise them giving rise to ill-health.

Losses of the dominant structures that may have maintained the supportive dynamic, though forced also shows the extent of the rift that fear of the iron rod may have glued together.

Loss in itself is a complex dynamic that leaves a lot of difficulties including denial, anger, and depression if the grief has not been processed effectively.

No one can make anyone process whatever unresolved emotions hence why those struggling are often met with contempt and judgment by impatient and less tolerating others that can be quite judgmental and or colluding into trauma bonding scenarios.

In most cases, families may have known about an individual’s struggle for a long time, but may have tried to shield them from the public in fear of reprisals, associated stigma, and shame.

This secrecy and frustration from the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness may have indirectly and subconsciously contributed to the deterioration or the development of the problem, for it is not easy to encourage and or challenge sensitive situations we may not fully understand.


Remedies and recommendations

Respite becomes crucial where grandparents, aunts and uncles, social clubs, and churches, etc can provide supportive and differing perspectives without too much emotional baggage and may be more available to provide much-needed attention and alternative explanation to situations.

This becomes an opportunity for development on both parties as communication channels become wider than the restrictive nuclear family dynamic can offer, especially when the power is imbalanced can be open to abuse depending on established relationships of the adults as some may use the children to settle scores in immature conflict resolutions.

It is commonplace that the struggling families are isolated and left with little to no support at all.

Having a shared safe communal space to come together to explore issues and resolve problems can be a necessary resource, like playgrounds, sports parks, and community halls where activities can be informal and yet nurturing to existing relationships.


Health and welfare systems should consider carer’s needs and support as a crucial part of whatever intervention as this can get in the way of recovery or progress, if not catered for effectively.

Additionally, and where available, families and social support networks should form an integral part of the treatment planning, for one’s struggle is not limited to the individual but the entire family and to an extent, the entire community.

Family counsellors and therapists are available to provide better guidance and support, we are never alone in whatever struggle. Reach out, for help awaits.


Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @ www.i-wellbeing.weebly.com. Insightwellbeing.mo@gmail.com







Facebook: Zimbabwe Digital News

Zimbabwe Digital News

Contact: (+27) 834767918
See News Differently
Facebook: Zimbabwe Digital News
Twitter: @realdigitalnews