Our mental health deteriorates over time if we do not attend to it and feed it with good and healthy habits
By Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande
We all have mental health issues, but some not as severe as the others; those things that we ourselves somehow do not feel right about, though not all the time, or those that others comment on, but we just don’t care or not bothered because it is who we are.
Maybe we just do not sleep well/enough and never have but we have just gotten used to functioning on a couple of hours a night or just one meal a day, if that.
Or we just cannot start a day without drinking alcohol or need to take a substance of sorts to get by situations.
Nevertheless, we carry on as we are, we perform well in school, feed our families well, and life goes on. So, what is the problem?
In Shona, there is a saying that goes “chisi hachieri musi wacharimwa”, simply to mean that things do not fall apart the moment we neglect them. They would have some momentum to keep going for a while, until they eventually slow down and come to a halt.
Similarly, our mental health deteriorates over time if we do not attend to it and feed it with good and healthy habits.
All those issues that we ignore and hope they go away simply because we do not think they are a big deal, they actually don’t go anywhere.
They fester and when we die without resolving them, they are passed on to our children and grandchildren or siblings if we don’t have children.
So, please take a moment to think about where we are in life and how we got here. Now imagine all the issues that we are not dealing with being passed on to our grandchildren to deal with, how would that sit with us?
Psychology is the study of human behaviour, simply put; how we think, feel and behave, and for centuries, notable thinkers have studied and written about how and why things happen from our habits.
In most African cultures, we often seek to push the blame onto what others have/have not done for/to us, while there is a lot that we are not doing ourselves.
Others are just doing what they can to survive.
It has become a jungle once again where its each to his own. Therefore, we need more psychotherapy than counselling as things have been broken for a while now that we may just be trying to normalise our pain. Africa is in critical care when it comes to mental health issues and requires crisis interventions.
Let us start with our psychologist colleagues: how many of us have had and continue to utilise therapy, counselling, or supervision requirement?
This question seeks to talk on how we would expect others to buy what we are selling when we ourselves do not even use the product.
The quandary that this creates is that while we avoid issues generally as a society, those that also provide supportive services will also be biased to the avoidance as a culture. We cannot live in a society of avoidance and yet not be avoidant ourselves.
When we look into the ibis, the ibis looks into us, such is the nature of our lives.
That said, let us delve into the counselling vs clinical spaces. Counselling is more about trying to keep things from falling apart, while clinical is how to get things back on track after they have fallen apart.
While we carry on with our lives, it is important to look at those lives in a critical manner that allows for advancement and progress, especially changing the things that do not work so well for us, individually or collectively, things like culture and traditions.
The more we know, the better we should behave. We cannot just know better but continue to hold on to old cultures/behaviours.
So, counselling seeks to help provide a safe space where we can talk about whatever issues we have without fear of being judged by others, but for us to judge ourselves and take corrective measures.
The irony with judgement is that if we do not kindly judge ourselves with full information available and appraise our behaviours, others will do so more harshly with the ignorance they have to our issues.
Life is a continuum, and as such we find that the issues that we are battling with are issues that have been left off by those that came before us.
So, it is up to us to decide whether we leave everything to our successors, that we would have neglected as we hid behind all these issues, or we work on things now, however small we can attend to.
Do we want to present for help after things have fallen apart or attend to keep them in good order?
Mental health services have become more clinical and reactive services than proactive as people largely present only in extreme cases, not only when things have fallen apart, but to the point that they cannot cope.
Yet, the services are available for supportive counselling before the voices, the violence, the abuse and exploitation and people are just not accessing them enough in time to prevent the damages.
We need to change the culture of avoidance and take responsibility from hereon.
While we may carry burdens from our predecessors, who may not have the information we now have.
The onus is on us to act and halt the deterioration.
We either present to mental health services maintain good habits in counselling or we present in clinical crisis. We have the choice.
Let us seek help or risk burdening our children with issues we could address today, for our parents only did the best they can with the information available to them at the time.
By Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @ www.i-wellbeing.weebly.com. Insightwellbeing.firstname.lastname@example.org
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