HERE IS A GENUINE REFLECTION FROM THE GIVEWATTS TEAM ON THE TOPIC MENTAL WELLNESS.
My name is Fernanda Winckler and I grew up in southern Brazil. When teenager I loved to read through my sister's books to try and understand how our brains affect our behaviours. (I have a sister and a mom who are psychologists). I believe our minds are brilliant and yet very delicate mechanisms.
As the CMO of GIVEWATTS, I strive to bring relevant topics to the team through our digital channels. In our Storytelling sessions, there is space for everyone to express their thoughts. My goal is to create a safe space where we are all accountable for each other's health and wellbeing.
In my point of view, we are supposed to nourish each other and care for our communities. When one person becomes ill, it is not the one to blame, but the whole group of relations and connections around this individual. Mental illness for me is a social claim for restructure and reevaluation of our actions. We have the chance every day to make a difference, we can start with a simple action: to TALK ABOUT IT.
According to our COO Joseph Odindo, during his childhood in Kenya, there was no such thing as "Mental Disorder". There was, instead, the term "mad" people, pursued as victims of witchcraft or "black magic". Nowadays things have changed and he can see it as a condition which can be treated properly.
More thoughts from our team in Kenya emerged with Tresia Mugwa (Intern- Admin and Customer Service):
"Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel, and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you're frequently thinking, feeling, or reacting becoming difficult or even impossible to cope with."
Yes, however, does everyone has a clear understanding of when and why one becomes unable to cope with daily activities in a healthy way?
Most of us have passed through a traumatic situation when we felt vulnerable, or have heard stories of people who went through a life-changing event they couldn't cope with.
Emmanuel Sigei (Intern- Operations) says: "Personally, I feel like in the African set up where Mental Health is such an underrated thing and most people tend to believe that its something that only exists among the "Rich" or that people suffering from this are crazy.”
He narrates a story:
"I have a friend who’s been through a couple of traumatic experiences in the past. A few months ago, she witnessed a building right next to their apartment block go up in flames. Inasmuch as no one she knew got hurt, the images of the huge fires and sounds of people screaming in the middle of the night stuck in her mind. At this point, she’s battling a serious episode of PTSD (Post Trauma Stress Disorder) with no place to hide from it."
"One night, after having a very realistic nightmare/hallucination of such an event, she talked to her parents about it but her parents brushed her off and said that Mental Health issues were just a way of young people seeking attention. "
Emmanuel preaches: Mental Health in my view is the most important yet the least emphasised part of human life. Studies show that most people who end up with an addiction of any form are battling one or more mental health issues. It is often misunderstood, especially by those that do not suffer or have not been directly affected by it.
Angela Kamande (Communications Manager) elaborates on this topic: "Our mental health plays a vital role in our daily functioning. The topic and respective care provided is yet to be fully embraced despite all the advances we are making in society today. It is notable that social problems are increasing and the number of people dealing with mental health challenges or behavioural problems will continue to rise.
"There is an oppressive nature to societal expectations that highly contributes to the state of one’s mental health."
I believe it should be an important aspect of our well-being just as much as our physical health." She explains, "When you physically feel unwell, you visit a doctor to get checked and take medicine. If you do not, your symptoms may get worse. Take stress for example. Stress that is not managed over a period of time leads to depression and one becomes symptomatic whereby they experience physical symptoms."
How does stigmas or stereotypes can influence how we act towards someone who needs help?
When one thinks of mental health there has always been a stereotype, mostly influenced by societal expectations on how one should deal with challenging situations. It’s common to hear phrases like “suck it up” or “you’re overreacting”. According to Angela, sometimes even the Mental health professionals are viewed negatively, just as the ones who seek for their help.
Culturally, how advanced is the development of such reflections?
Angela answers: "In many countries, societies are driven by their traditional customs and other sociological hindrances which lead them to look down on people who are struggling with their mental health. Some topics are even viewed as taboo. Despite this, I see progress. More people are talking about it now."
"I have a lot of respect and admiration for Generation Z. Today as the world advances a lot more pressure is put on the younger generation. They are a lot more self-aware, more expressive, and tend to be viewed as deviants because they refuse to let society dictate their “normal”. At the same time, we see a lot more losing the fight to depression for instance- because in most cases they have neither the support they need nor the coping mechanisms that can help them manage. And that goes back to how much we embrace mental health care.
The more we embrace this, the more measures will be taken to address this situation, particularly when it comes to policymaking. It has to become more “normal” to talk about it and seek help.
Those providing health care also have a responsibility to be as effective as they can. I have seen many across the world failed by the health care system when it comes to addressing mental health."
"There are different spectrums when it comes to mental health and how each is managed varies. Some are better managed from a medical approach, and others from the social-individualistic approach. Or both."
"There are self-help measures one can take to maintain good mental health with physical activities, positive attitude, and positive/constructive outlets, etc. There are also various coping mechanisms for dealing with challenges in day to day life."
"Seeking the help of a professional does not always mean that one is going through something destructive. One could be at a good place and wants to learn how to maintain that or get to a better place."
"My experiences with mental health come from both sides, as a client and as a mental health care professional. We are both products (taught by society) and producers (teachers) of society. We can choose to be producers and take action to change things for the better, starting with ourselves." Conclude Angela.
From a Swedish perspective, Our CEO Petter Claesson thrives: Our mental status is always there, whether we accept it or not. And every day we balance it against our daily ”must-do’s”. To understand we are all struggling, and that some people just face more challenges than ourselves, is humbling. In Sweden, it is not uncommon for people to ”come out” about their mental disorders, and overall there has been a positive response.
THANK YOU FOR READING!
Written by: Fernanda Winckler
Photo Credit: Private for GIVEWATTS