This is definitely one of the most challenging and thought provoking articles I’ve had to write so far. Health and wellness is such a broad topic with so much to explore. Mental health is definitely worth discussing. I’ve had my fair share of struggles with depression and anxiety this year in particular, a lot of times I didn’t know if I could handle all the pressure I was facing financially and in my relationship. It has been a lot to be honest. So when the time came to write this article I really decided that my readers deserve a real look at mental health through a woman’s eyes, especially a Zimbabwean one.
According to Wikipedia, “Mental health is the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment.” Mental health problems can be caused by; and include depression, challenges in relationships, addiction, loneliness and stress, amongst a few others. The economic situation in Zimbabwe is enough to drive anyone crazy. It’s already hard enough being a woman anywhere else, but the psychological pressure of being a woman in Zimbabwe is definitely a unique one. Don’t get me wrong, being a woman is amazing. It is a privilege. However, being female comes with a plethora of challenges.
From the time we’re younger, our mothers take us to the hair salon, making us conscious of our looks and self-image from a young age. The emotional episodes that come with menstruation and the mood swings that comes with it (PMS). There is pressure with adulting, from battling university, the stress of trying to figure out how to live and pay the bills, how to protect yourself, taking care of your own financial and emotional well-being can be a lot. There are factors like pregnancy, finding out you’re pregnant and how the ‘Helen’ you’re going to take care of a whole human (most often without the dad) Did I mention post-partum? It’s real. It’s really real. I haven’t even addressed sexual harassment in our workplaces and schools. These are all the trials and challenges that we face on a daily basis as women, and being in a country like Zimbabwe doesn’t make it any easier. The economy, the frustrating political climate and just the heat are enough to make anyone feel suicidal.
Life can get overwhelming and all the issues I mentioned above are really hard-hitting and can be very difficult to deal with. Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you just want to give up on everything , after crying all night completely oblivious to the fact that you are not alone and there is help available. We all need someone to talk to, someone to share the load with, or just to tell us that it’s going to be okay and that we’re really not alone.
I came across an interesting article on bbc.com about a Zimbabwean psychiatrist who started an initiative called the ‘Friendship Bench’ after he lost a patient who didn’t have transport to visit him committed suicide. He has trained over 400 elderly women in therapy, and these ladies counsel for free in over 70 communities in Zimbabwe. Depression is a serious cancer in our communities and contributes to a large number of suicides all across the globe. Having such a platform for free is definitely a true gift.
I spoke to the award-winning, Bulawayo based rapper, Indigo Saint about mental health who had this to say, “There is a lot more awareness around Mental Health and a lot less of the stigma, which is a good thing. The kids are talking about it a lot now. It’s in maybe every fifth conversation.” We went on to speaking about ‘Cottage Fest’, A Mental Health Awareness Festival held in Bulawayo last year, supported by corporates and organizations like Econet, House 292 and AfriBS. The vibes were correct, there were speakers like Dot Bekker, founder of Kusasa Education Fund who spoke about her experiences around mental health. Platforms like these reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues by making people more vocal about their struggles.
Opening up is key and I know it may not be easy, but it’s part of the process to over-coming. There are platforms and resources available to help you heal. A friend of mine, Lee-Anne Nyathi, a psychology major, started an Instagram account that is aimed to help people deal with depression and anxiety, Sunshine and Rainbows. Do check it out. Take back your power! Take it away from depression anxiety, stress, or whatever may have caused it. Don’t give in to those negative voices and insecurities. You’re a queen and in the famous words of the venerable Kendrick Lamar, “we gon’ be alright.”