Emmanuel Njume Sone: Mental Health Notes
Mental illness can often find its cause in social relationships or the day-to-day difficulties faced by everyone. This means that we all have a part to play in the diagnosis, treatment and recovery of our family members, friends, neighbours and even strangers who are struggling with their mental health.
According to the National Centre for Health Statistics in America, migrants are among one of the most resilient groups of people in the world mentally, but what happens when their mental health takes a turn for the worst? By understanding our levels of weaknesses, we may start to know our responsibilities to ourselves, families and to neighbours when faced with mental health challenges.
Women are more likely than men to experience mental health issues. Migrant women, like many migrant men, typically avoid the outside advice of a mental health professional when stress starts to affect their mood, activity, sleep, eating habits or weight.
Both migrant men and women often deny the mental and physical changes which follow prolonged stressful periods in their lives. They typically suppress their feelings and even harmful thoughts for fear of being seen as weak or crazy. But they are not. We should remind them that it is okay not to feel okay.
These suppressed stresses can become a source of greater problems with time. It is better to share your worries through therapy and counselling and reduce the pressure on yourself. Though there seems to be a rise in the number of persons in need of counselling for stress or other psychic pains in Ireland, these numbers have not caught enough migrants’ attention. As migrants, we are our brother’s keepers and must remember our shared destinies away from home.
There are some basic things we must all learn about mental health. For starters, seeking mental health counselling is not a sign that you’re weak or ‘crazy’. It means that you or someone close to you have noticed that there are significant changes in your thinking, behaviour and lifestyle and you may use the guidance of a professional.
When you avoid seeking help for persistent mood changes, personality changes and changes in thinking, including having thoughts of harming yourself or others, you risk those symptoms worsening, making treatment much more difficult. Mental health not only impacts the person seeking help but it has a direct impact on the individual, her family and her community. Seeking help early is important for faster recovery.
People who received counselling at an early onset of symptoms for the most part perform better at work, generally get along well with others, cope better with stress and have overall satisfying and productive lives.
And finally, just because there’s still a stigma in the communities about mental health treatment, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t thinking about getting help. It does mean, however, that we’re still not openly talking about it. You may be surprised to discover how your personal disclosure about seeking professional help could inspire someone else to get the help that they need.
We must remember that there are no midway definitions for mental health disorders in African cultures. In almost all cases the diagnosis is conclusive: it is a yes or a no. Related issues like depression, anxiety disorder, paranoia personality disorder, dyslexia, insomnia, acute stresses, eating disorders and so on do not count as mental health issues. But all these stress-related conditions have a stronger bearing on us than we care to realise. If you have concerns about your friend or a family member, please contact your GP for advice.
Emmanuel Njume Sone is health advocacy officer with Cairde. The opinions in the article are solely that of the author and do not represents any organisation or group.