Are you “Mad”?
How often have you heard this question? Sometimes substituted for “why would you think like that?” or “Can you think of something else within my limits?” For example:
Nneka: You have been working 16 hours a day for the past month. Why don’t you ask your boss to give you 2 weeks off?
Nyasha: Are you mad? Do you want me to lose my job?
The unfortunate result from the frequent use of this question is that it undermines the importance of mental health. Mental Health is not just a condition of the western world; it is a global issue consisting of disorders like depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and extreme psychoanalytic disorders like schizophrenia etc. None of these illnesses are strange to Africa. From the person on the street with a cup placed over their ear to the person in a suit with connections in high places, all can be home to mental disorders. Although triggers like the death of a loved one and/or losing your only source of income can result in mental disorders, genetics also has a role. However, being genetically predisposed does not determine the fate of a person. It is not nature vs. nurture, but nature and nurture. So what can we do about it?
To the community,
Support, smile, serve.
Don’t hold too tight,
To the health practitioners,
To the government,
For the people.
Train your lips,
Train your thoughts.
We are all human and
We deserve these words:
Are you well?
For more on mental health issues globally, watch this talk on Dr Vikram Patel's approach to empowering ordinary people to care for people with mental health problems.
Jadesola Giwa is a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honors) with a major in Health and Society and concentration in psychology and a soon-to -be University of Calgary Graduate (June 2014). She is interested in improving the socioeconomic status of low and middle income countries by encouraging preventive care in oral health. She is also currently involved in developing health interventions that address health inequities by ensuring that women of all ethnic backgrounds receive health interventions in a way that increases knowledge and encourages preventive behaviours.