Meshing My Mental Lies

Nankinga Lydia, Journalist, Vlogger and Mental Health Activist

By Lydia Nankinga,

As I sit here in my corner alone (more often than not) I can’t help but contemplate on all the ways that we got here. So many questions of the:

How did we get here?
When did we get here?
And to what extent are we allowing all of this to happen while doing so little if at all nothing about it? As of today, research is showing that 14 million Ugandans suffer from Mental Health disorders and on a personal note knowing what I know now saying you’ve never struggled with mental health is wide as saying you’ve never had any health issues. Mental Health includes our emotional, psychosocial well being and it affects how we think, act or feel which helps in determining how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.

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See, last year I lost my nephew to suicide. He was a ‘’healthy’’ 14-year-old boy, handsome, tall and wonderfully growing into a great man and as we sat at his vigil everyone was pointing fingers for doing such an abominable thing, sitting on their high horses judging him for all the wrongs he ever did but no one stopped to ask themselves WHY, why he made that choice to end his life but I knew why? Severe childhood trauma! Ronnie was an orphan and the only child to his parents who succumbed to HIV/AIDS.

At that moment, I knew what it’s like to suffer in silence, to have so many people around you but none to receive you later alone understand you. I know those feelings of excessive sadness and the extreme mood changes where you’ll find me really happy today and get me the next day lacking the zeal to live, it is a journey for me and a long one for that matter because I don’t know when all of this will stop. All I want you to know is that mental and behavior disorders do not discriminate. They affect individuals of all ages, countries and societies, the rich and the poor, from urban and rural environments.

Mental disorder/illness is widely misunderstood here in Uganda and this undermines the illness and prevents effective treatment since Mental illness is still so strongly connected to traditional beliefs and ideas surrounding curses and witchcraft and those that suffer are considered deserving of all happening to them or at fault and a person is completely discarded and isolated and would forever be stigmatized as crazy even if they are healed hence the reason why so many people still suffer in silence keeping up appearances with a strong demeanor.

So, as we come close to the end of the Mental Health Awareness Month my only wish is for a larger part of us to understand that mental illness is a disease that can affect anyone. Let’s educate ourselves on the warning signs to prevent severe illness and improve open communication regarding mental well-being.

I am not a doctor, therapist or psychiatrist but I am a victim of mental disorders and these have been my own challenges and observations. So, if you know anyone or you suffering, you are not alone. Talk to a professional for help on their toll-free number. Mental Health Uganda on 0800212121.

Lydia Nankinga, the writer is a Ugandan Jornalist, content creator, film maker &  Mental Health Activist.

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