Posted in LIFE, Musings, psychology, Reflections

CHANGING SOCIETIES PERCEPTION ON MENTAL ILLNESS

The bigger conversation to have which most of us never want to have is our mental health. Recently I was watching a song that is based on a true story about a guy who broke up with his girl for cheating on him with a sponsor. However the said lady is said to have suicidal tendencies. The lady thought the song was directed to her but that was not really the intention.

go-green-mental-health-awareness-month2

Someone commented about this video and this is what they had to say

I personally believe that people who try to or commit suicide are generally selfish, no matter what one is going through.”

For the purpose of this blog allow me to call this lady Martha though this is not her real name.

I will copy-paste the conversations as they were on the social platform.

Firstly, Martha’s outburst was unnecessary –she was congratulating musicians for a job well done but ends up talking insensitively.

Secondly Martha’s comments tell us how the society we are in views mental illness.

My reply to her comments on the said issue of suicide being equated to selfishness

Martha seems you don’t what depression is I hate the way Kenyans despite the fact that mental illness exists.”

As if that was not enough she went ahead to say

@Lorraine Oh, I know it too well. Most of those that do tend to have thoughts like nobody cares about them…. most of them tend to take the easy way out of whatever they are going through instead of facing it or sharing it with somebody. Whenever help is offered wanaona tu hakuna mtu anaweza wasaidia. (Some don’t even ask for help). Fact is everybody has problems… somebody somewhere is going through far worse as compared to whatever they are going through… It is such a selfish thing for someone to contemplate suicide or even commit suicide (most of them even leave a note)…… It is not like once you are gone, you’ll come back to life. How about the people you leave behind… Watch ’13 reasons why’, it’s a web series.”

My response to her based on the above comment was

Martha seems you have the knowledge because all you have said is true but you need to understand it is like Cancer it eats up your esteem, your thought process and even your conscience I know about thirteen reasons why that is not enough education ( if it is ). Search for psychology books on how problems develop and you will understand.”

I know by now you must be wondering what Lorraine is talking about.

It is the reality of mental illness. The fact that it exists.

mental health awareness and support

I have spoken with many people who are struggling and later on called me to say ,if it were not for the support you gave me and you being there to listen- honestly I would have taken my life away.

I write articles and poems. Someone once opened up to me about their pain after reading one of my poems and I am glad I am changing lives. All glory to God.

break the stigma on mental health

You do not have to have been rescued from death to help someone who is at death point. NO …. All you need to do is listen. Be present in the moment with someone and allow them to shed their tears. Offer the comfort of your presence and provide empathy. This will bring change to their mental health.

be the change ( mental illness)

Accompany the individual to seek help and walk with them through their journey of healing.

Do not let them do it on their own. Because the more alone they are the more harmful it is for them. Do not just tell them to seek help – lead them to help but DO NOT force. By showing you can be with them they see that in you actions speak louder than words.

However there are few questions that weigh heavily on me where mental illness is concerned

  1. Does society really know about mental illness? (or are we all like Martha)
  2. Do people know what to look out for to determine one is mentally ill?
  3. Do people really know who to contact for help
  4. Does society contribute to the increase in mental illness? (i.e Africans labeling people based on weight does it contribute to eating and feeding disorders)
  5. How can we help people with mental illness as a society?
  6. How can those who are aware such as counselors and psychologists make society aware about mental disorders?

mental illness not craziness

In Conclusion

If you realize someone around you has a mental illness. Do not stigmatize but help them to cope. You should be their main social support. Labeling them as selfish is stigma because it shows you do not understand and are not ready to understand their crisis. Being there and listening may be all it takes. It may also assist in the next step which is seeking professional help for their problem.

 

fight the stigma mental healthstand up against stigma

 

Meanwhile I will leave you with a hotline if you notice any red flags in your friends and loved ones or if you need someone to talk to call NISKIZE  0900 620 800.  Niskize is a 24 hr counseling call center ( which means you can call even at 1a.m or 3a.m when people are asleep and you will still find someone on the line to talk to). They are there to listen and might refer you for one on one therapy.

http://vunjakimya.com/where-to-get-help/ 

niskize

 You can also leave answers to the six questions above in the comment section or if your answer is too lengthy drop an email at lorrainewangari@gmail.com

Stay tuned for scenes on more …( i mean your responses become articles)

shining light on mental illness
photo credit Wairema foundation and trust http://netgraphicsonline.com/wairema/

all photos from the web no copyright intended

Posted in psychology

EMPATHY VS SYMPATHY

Empathy and sympathy are mistaken to be synonymous to one another.

However they are totally different in meaning and in the manner through which they are displayed.

Sympathy is the state in which you feel sorry for an individual because of the grief or misfortune.

On the other hand empathy is the feeling of understanding and sharing in another person’s feelings or emotions.

The manner in which one conveys sympathy and empathy are totally different.

In sympathy

People talk about how they feel about you and the situation you are in but may not directly express their feelings towards you.

There is empty talk and the most common is I will pray for you. They say things they will not do but think of doing.

You hear words such as wooiee “yaani nani has gone through all that, why do bad things happen to good people?”

People say they will be there for you but will never do anything after those words.

Sympathetic people make the situation hopeless with words like “maisha yake ni ngumu kama ingekuwa mimi… hata sijui.”

In Empathy

People express how they feel directly towards you.

People say what they mean

People are there for you; they check up on you and do not necessarily have to say it.

The help you find is genuine.

Someone will give you hope through their word and actions.

Therefore we should aim at providing empathetic healing rather than sympathetic sorrow. Show concern rather than empty talk because that is what sympathy is mainly about. Your sympathy leaves one more hopeless than before  not knowing what to think about. On the other hand empathy leaves one knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

For whatever situation empathy is felt in one’s voice, words and non-verbal cues.

Posted in psychology, Reflections

WHY WE NEED DEBRIEFING FOR ALL PROFFESSIONALS

Have you ever been to a Kenyan hospital to visit a patient and the moment you ask where your friend or family member is you hear something like

‘‘Ameenda!’’

Then you ask ‘‘Wapi?’’

They respond ‘‘Huyo alikufa Jana’’

Then you sit there trying to digest the facts you have been told because you are motionless.

Even if you begin to cry no one will attend to you because no one cares.

 

One may say they are used to it. To then it’s normal. But I will ask

Why has it become normal ?

This is because no one dares to find how doctors feel when their patient dies. If at any one point they diagnose cancer and it turns out positive or a patient dies in his/her hands he/she may get into a confused state, begin to blame himself and finally enter into depressive states.

This doctor needs care, he needs to meet with someone who will take time to listen and help in adjusting negative thoughts. This should be done twice weekly or even every day. This process is known as debriefing.

Debriefing is disclosing to a subject the purpose of the experiment. It is a process of giving and receiving confidential information after a task experiment, work or discussion. Debriefing should not only be done for psychologists but for anyone in the work industry.

Lawyers go to court handle cases some are lost, some are won. They go through lots of processes to prepare for a case and frustration in the courts. They handle clients with madness and defend guilty parties knowingly or unknowingly. After going through all this stress you need to talk to someone who will help you get over a lost case and trauma that is related to the walls of the court rooms. They need debriefing. They need to tell someone about the dramatic/ interesting/chaotic court session.

Teachers receive a lot of stress from their work being channeled from their students and parents of their students. These amounts to a lot of pressure and if they pour it out to someone who is trustworthy and is willing to listen they will have stable lives.

Late July there was a policeman who undressed wore sack cloth then slept outside the Langata police station. We check whether they have 32 teeth or flat feet. We check if their height is standard but not their mental heights.

All these stress is transmitted to the people around us. Therefore our mental states being dysfunctional our families also become dysfunctional because we do not know what is inside us is disturbing us. We need to repair ourselves first. Because who we are affects how we relate to other people.

 

 

 

 

Posted in psychology, SHORT STORY

UNMASKED

 

When I was in primary school I shared a class with a young girl named Tamima. She was a lonely girl with not much friends attributed by how she looks, talks and walks. She had a big forehead and a big skull. She mumbled her words and could not talk quietly. Her voice was naturally loud. Her walking style seemed to confuse most people. She walked slowly and stepped with one leg. This had a traumatizing effect on her because no one seemed to understand. All they could do is laugh and make fun. Teachers were not an exception. In fact they called her kichwa kubwa which translates to big headed. Theirs was a literal meaning of the word which on normal terms was used to mean a child whose behaviour is wanting. Poor Tamima! Did she have to go through all this trouble?

Tamima had the support of her mother –Sandra since her father thought she was a bad omen. At the time Sandra delivered Tamima her father asked

‘‘Haya ni mapepo gani?’’

‘‘What kind of witchcraft is this?’’

He could not stand seeing what Tamima looked like so immediately they came out of the hospital he packed his clothes  and ran away never to return or to associate with a bewitched family -as he describes it.

On the other hand Sandra knew the girl was a gift. She is the image of God was what her mother anyone who would ask what the problem is or try to speak ill. These words were enough to get people holding their tongues. Her mother knew it was congenital hydrocephalus (a buildup of excess Cerebrospinal Fluid –CSF in the brain at birth that leads to swelling). She therefore made efforts to ensure Tamima feels human. This made Tamima cling to her mother as a support system and friend. As Tamima would cry everyday explaining what her classmates have told her and how they laughed. All her mother would do was say

‘‘You are beautiful and I love you just the way you are but don’t forget God loves you more.’’

Tamima would look at her mother wipe the tears away, smile and give her a very tight hug.

On one fateful day I fought with my best friend. I sat behind my desk and begun to cry. Tamima who was sited in front of me was singing a song that was in line with her problem and mine at the moment

Mbona? Mbona? Mbona?

Mbona? Mbona? Mbona?

Mbona? Aah Mbona?

 

Wakati Mungu aliniumba

Alipanga mpango wake

Kwamba Mimi niwe jinsi nilivyo

Mbona sasa hamnidhamini

Mwaniona Kama sifai

Sikuchagua niwe jinsi nilivyo

Nikitembea barabarani macho mmenikazia

Mbio mbio mwaniondokea Mimi ni Kama nyinyi

When I heard the singing I stopped crying, wiped my tears, walked towards her and asked in the middle of my sobs…

‘‘You –can –sing?’’

She did not respond but immediately notices my sorrow and asked

‘‘Why do you cry?’’

The tense in her sentence seemed to implying it was something I did constantly. Then she uttered …

‘‘Pamela I know you, I have observed you and I know it is your best friend- Mary. But allow me to tell you this

Now, we are never alone
Your blood, it makes us strong
Now, there is power to move on
Never, we are never alone

Once I had a heart that just wouldn’t seem to heal
No joy blowing through the wind
Your touch I couldn’t feel
Near my end, I heard Your voice
Speaking comfort to my soul
Saying when you’re weak, that’s when I’m strong
Now I’m so glad I know

No more loneliness
No more cloudy days
No more crying in the midnight, or
The fears that just won’t fade

I did not destruct her. I went out to call my friends to listen and you guessed right they were as shocked as I was. They were surprised to know the person I was mistreating has a big heart and a big talent. It did not stop at that they gave word to the teachers were more than surprised. They allowed her to participate in the music festival particularly a solo performance.

This was her turning point as everyone begun to accept her. Bullying her would lead to suspension. Everyone realized it is not about how you look but what you do and the value you hold to yourself that matters.

disclaimer

i do not own any copyrights to the songs used above

Posted in LIFE, psychology, Reflections

WHY PSYCHOLOGY: DIFFERENT CALLING

Many people keep asking me a question I will never get tired of answering. The question reads ‘‘Why Psychology?’’ Or it sounds something like ‘‘you have a good voice why not study a course where you will use your voice more such as communication or Information Technology?’’ To further disgust you hear them asking it by quoting ‘‘why you are doing a course for a nobody you couldn’t have done any better?’’

Passion and Calling Co-relation

To answer the above questions I wrote an article and named it WHY PSYCHOLOGY: DIFFERENT CALLING. We all have different passions and callings and if you are not aiming to better any of the two I have three words for you WHAT A WASTE!  Therefore my passion is to help others. If I stop at that someone would say there are many other courses you could have done such as, customer care, medicine, theology, social work, community development, nutrition and whatever else you will say. But let me remind you I said different passion and calling and there is your answer: my calling is in none of the above but psychology.

Therapeutic Nature

Coming to think of it I have a passion for many things including art, poetry, culture, people, community and an in depth passion for Christ and therefore if you ask me why not combine all these I will tell you I try but I end up being therapeutic in any one of those or all of them combined seeing it best to do psychology as I would be able to use my passions to help others.

 Flashback

Let me tell you a bit about my unfocused life that was and later attuned to focus and self – discovery.

N.B

Self -discovery is a process of gaining insight of oneself hence I would not be wrong to say I am still in a process of self- discovery since every day I become aware of something new about myself, which is a sign of growth.

Before I finally decided that psychology is what I want to do I was undecided. Every time I was asked what I want to specialize in at higher learning (posed as what do you want to be when you grow up) I mentioned what I had been thinking about for the past two weeks or not long ago from the time of the question just to look focused. (A more focused person would say that she is thinking about it and would accept if given more time not to make a hasty decision). I started by wanting to specialize in fine art, then education, then aviation or airport operations (whichever came to mind ) then it was engineering or was it electronic engineering. At one point it was a linguist, then an actuarial scientist or computer scientist (put in mind I did not know the difference so whatever came to mind was good enough). Then for the longest time I was set that I wanted to be a pastor – no lie I preached once in a while. That got off my mind for a while and I started talking about being an artist – more specifically a poet but I thought I would just be an artist – more specifically  a poet  but I would just be  a romantic, therapeutic, activist and it wouldn’t do much for others but I eventually knew better.

All the careers mentioned above at one point influenced how I behaved. The fact that I wanted to be a linguist and a poet at one point made me choose French as an option and yearn to succeed in all the languages tested in high school- English, Kiswahili and not to exempt French on my part.

The fact that I wanted to do actuarial science, computer science and electronic engineering made me choose physics as an option.

The fact that I wanted to be a pastor made me join the C.U in order to access the pulpit easily then wanted to shine in C.R.E and languages so that I would be easily marketable for what it deserves.

Journey of Self-Discovery

When I purposely intended to begin my journey of self- discovery, I started to see the real me. I began to know my personality type, my strengths and weaknesses became more known to me, my tolerance and intolerances were in the light more than ever, my own resistances were hindrances that I recognized. I began to realize that my artistic, linguistic, theological nature of me all draws back to a few things that lead me to finally say psychology it is.

My art is therapeutic for me. When faced with difficult situation I use art to express myself. It also works in the same manner for others who read my poems. Once a person read my poems and says it prevented her from committing suicide.

Linguistic nature displays in my proficiency in Swahili has led me to help others to start their projects and it draws back to the art for me who looks at language as an art.

Yes I wanted to be a pastor but I realized there is one thing I always tied my theological nature to the problems in our society which can be overcome by faith. I came to realize that I tend to do that as a means to enlighten people and it is not what I would love to do 24hrs in 7 days but what I would want to use my free time for.

The fact that the passion inside of me can work around predicting a behavior (such as someone committing suicide) in order to describe, explain and control which are what I came to realize are the four goals of psychology then why not follow my area of calling.

I began to feel so passionate about it that I started discovering few things such as personality tests, mental/ psychological disorders and even went for personal therapy – even before I started the course although I did not know that was the name I thought I was just in a one on one career counseling session but I know better now. I am I ventured into my calling that cannot collide or overpower my passion but that which works hand in hand with it.

NO REGRETS!