Each person knows when things are just not quite right. It’s an instinctive knowing…no need for words.
Feelings of walls closing in; heavy darkness; low self confidence; inexplicable tears; simultaneous isolation and desire for company all at the same time.
But how do you deal with depression – or any other mental health issue, when you are a person of faith not to mention black.
Not righted…. Funny in the head…. Not quite right….
When I think of mental health in the context of my background, these are some of the phrases I have heard over the years. Sadly I have even used them myself because that was what I learnt as norm from the previous generation. I grew up hearing someone with a mental health issue being described this way. Even if they weren’t the topic of issue, their mental health was the reference point. The person’s mental state was always the defining marker for description and even more so if their behaviour was affected too.
Taboo…. Stigma…. Unspoken words….
Why? I don’t know. I guess as usual the unknown frightens people. So a great divide is erected and the ‘them and us’ syndrome comes into effect.
Now I am the adult and thank goodness I have been liberated from such folly and can speak about mental health issues openly and respectfully. I have boldly taken this step as I know at times I have my own struggles, which have gone undetected by others for years and even misunderstood by myself in earlier years.
Due to training and much self development I have come to see that I too had struggled with depression in my younger years – from my teens to well into my twenties to be exact. In a time when parents focused on telling their children to work twice as hard and be twice as good as their counterparts; mental health was very much taboo and not accepted (depression was seen as an excuse for lazy people) let alone disclosed.
The isolation endured, feelings of being different and confusion about what was happening to me at a crucial time of development, had a negative effect on my self esteem and confidence during that time. Not being able to talk to anyone about what was happening was so unbearable, to the point of wanting to commit suicide.
No teenager or young person should have to suffer like this alone.
Now as a mental health worker I know the signs to look out for and what to do in order to look after myself. But my thought process turns to the countless of people that still suffer in silence because of this internal cultural divide. Those who misunderstand and teach the ‘them and us’ syndrome and those who sit idly by and let it happen – even disapprovingly.
When will we break the silence within our own culture and be straight up honest for once. How can we ever move forward and evolve into better people if we keep up traditions which hinder and hurt, rather than support and set free. I am sorry to say from my past experiences at worst, it seemed as though a person with leprosy would be more inclined to get help than a person suffering with mental health issues.
Yes… I mean suffering. It is all internal. It does not mean it does not exist because you cannot see physical symptoms. It does not mean it is trivial or of any less importance because a limb is not falling off. When your mind does not function at optimum, it sure does feel like a limb is missing. But unless you experience it for yourself, I do appreciate it is difficult to fully understand. It does not mean you don’t try or trivialise it.
It is not a virus…. It is not catching.
As a person of faith I ask ‘What are the Pentecostal churches doing to help?’
Please do not condemn or judge that which you do not understand. Use your greatest weapon and love such a one in your midst. Educate yourself and your members; offer support in various forms: from educational workshops, talking therapy, groups to simply befriending to name a few. Always pray, it is important and then act. We need God to help and guide us, so that we can do our best when helping and supporting each other.
In our silence the voice of depression is loudest. Let us no longer be silent.
For God so loved us that He gave….let us love one another and speak out.